Importance of joint attention skills in young children with ASD

 What is Joint Attention?

Joint attention is the development of specific skills that involve sharing attention with others. Typically developing children do this in a number of ways. For example, they can point at objects and people to share their interests, they can bring and show objects to others, and they can also coordinate looking between objects and people. Children also develop the ability to share attention states and can demonstrate this by being able to mutually sustain joint engagement with others, for example by playing a simple game together or looking at a book and pointing at the pictures together to share their interest.

Why is Joint Attention important?

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders have a particular difficulty in their social relationships. Children with Autism often demonstrate a lack of or delays in joint attention skills.  Children with Autism are often more interested in and engaged by their own thoughts and sensations than by other people or even the outside world.  Social connections are more difficult to build and understand for children with Autism.  A lack of or a delay in joint attention skills can limit children’s ability to learn through imitation, develop play and social skills, and attend in a learning situation such as a classroom.  Children with Autism who display more intact joint attention skills exhibit better outcomes with respect to the development of cognitive, language, and symbolic play skills. Joint attention skills have a vital role in the development of children with autism spectrum disorders.

Impaired development of joint attention is a cardinal feature of children with autism and thus it is important to develop this skill in early intervention efforts. It is considered as the foundation for learning. Learning occurs through attention between people. Joint attention allows one to share experiences with others, which is required in forming social relationships.

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