Researchers spend a lot of time looking into different ways of diagnosing autism in the hope that early treatment can help to mitigate at least some of the effects of the condition. One of the methods scientists use is to look at what children pay attention to. Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, studied 110 toddlers aged between 14 and 42 months. 37 of them had autism, 22 of them had another learning disability while 51 were unaffected by either. The scientists showed the toddlers two videos at the same time - one was of moving geometric shapes while the other was of children dancing, jumping, smiling and playing. While the children watched the videos their eye movements were tracked to see which one they were looking at. 40% of the children with autism spent more than half of the time staring at the geometric patterns while only one of the typically-developing toddlers preferred them. All of the children who had the strongest preference for the geometric pattern, who spent more than two-thirds of the time looking at it, had autism.
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