University of Vermont

Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR)

INQUIRY 2016 Research, Scholarship and the Arts at UVM

Autism Research

Tracking the Conversation

Where do your eyes focus during a conversation?

An innovative study by UVM researchers led by Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders Tiffany Hutchins, Ph.D., revealed that for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the answer depends on how emotional the conversation is.

The study, published in the June 2016 Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, showed that children with the developmental disability fixate longer on a speaker's mouth rather than the eyes when the conversation turns emotional.

This is the first study of its kind to use eye tracker technology and Skype to monitor eye movement during an interactive conversation, and the results could affect the way speech therapists treat the estimated 1 in 68 children nationally who struggle with the social, communication and behavioral challenges caused by ASD.