To the surprise of the team, they found no significant increase in the time autistic individuals with language difficulties spent looking at the mouth region compared to those without this additional language problem. In addition, the amount of time both groups with autism spent looking at eyes did not differ from their non-autistic peers.
‘Our work suggests that individuals with autism, like their typically developing peers, can and do attend to important social cues such as the eyes when viewing familiar social scenes. The individuals with autism who had additional language impairments tended to spend less time looking at faces generally, but when they did look at the face, they spent significantly more time looking at eyes than mouths.’
I can’t look up the specific blog entries right now, but I’ve talked a lot in the past about how many social cues I can attend to when I am not trying my darndest to hang onto language comprehension. Looks like some researchers finally found something related to that too, that the tendency to stare at mouths rather than eyes in some autistic people was likely related to their attempts to use lipreading to augment hearing when processing language.
I can read a whole lot of body language — not always the standard parts but a whole lot of it — if I’m not engaged in language comprehension or production, both of which are very taxing on any other perceptions. Been saying this a long time. Been wondering when research would actually support it. Glad they’re finally at least stumbling on bits of this. (Sorry for not blogging eloquently on this, but I think I’ve already covered it in the past and I’m glad someone’s finally looking at this.)