Joint Attention~ Why it matters?

During pregnancy, many mothers anticipate the day to gaze upon their precious bundle, through laughing, hugging and cooing.  As children progress and began to explore their new found world, playing with toys, picking up a book, or even motioning to an object on the floor.  This exuberant experience which some may take for granted is actually a critical stage in human development.  All in all you are sharing experiences, your little one’s motion for your attention and  particpation into their little world and your welcoming engagement is called joint attention.

However, for those who are more technical, here’s the textbook definition:

Joint attention is an early-developing social-communicative skill in which two people (usually a young child and an adult) use gestures and gaze to share attention, with respect to interesting objects or events. This skill plays a critical role in social and language development.  Joint attention emerges around 3 months of age and becomes well-established by 18 months of age.

Why it Matters?

Now, why are we concerned about autism children in relation to joint attention? Bids for attention are either responsive or initiated, in which cognitive, social and language development skills are formed.  It’s often easy to respond to bids for attention,  however, initiation is a more cumbersome task, in which children with autism have little interest.

The shortcomings can be wide & vary depending on the child:

  • Lack of reciprocity in social settings, a primer to language acquisition
  • Lack of orientation to certain speech sounds
  • Deficits in social referencing
  • Deficits in declarative pointing &  showing
  • Deficits in looking where others point

Combined, an autism child’s development can suffer significant setbacks, these deficits can also serve as early indicators for autism screening. Fortunately, evidenced based research has identified settings most suitable for helping to establish joint attention in young children.

  • Autism children benefit from less structured and more naturalistic approaches than what might be used with older children with autism.
  • Autism children learn most easily through play and interaction with the adults who are most important in their lives, their parents.

The Early Start Denver Model offers strategies to acquire joint attention by embedding this complex activity into highly preferred activities and build them up in simple steps to more complex steps over time. So Love Autistic Center provides the Early Start Denver Model for early autism learners to increase skill development in joint attention and other critical domains.  We also train parents, to implement these strategies in the home, helping to reinforce skill sets across all environments.

Next time, we will discuss social referencing a supportive skill closely tied to joint attention.

Yours Truly,

Venus David

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