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      Expressivity in children with autism and Williams syndrome

      Advances in Autism

      Emerald Publishing

      Schools, Autism spectrum disorder, High functioning autism, Williams syndrome, Eye gaze, Facial expressions, Morphosyntax

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          The purpose of this study is to investigate the social and affective aspects of communication in school-age children with HFA and school-age children with WS using a micro-analytic approach. Social communication is important for success at home, school, work and in the community. Lacking the ability to effectively process and convey information can lead to deficits in social communication. Individuals with high functioning autism (HFA) and individuals with Williams syndrome (WS) often have significant impairments in social communication that impact their relationships with others. Currently, little is known about how school-age children use and integrate verbal and non-verbal behaviors in the context of a social interaction.


          A micro-analytic coding scheme was devised to reveal which channels children use to convey information. Language, eye gaze behaviors and facial expressions of the child were coded during this dyadic social interaction. These behaviors were coded throughout the entire interview, as well as when the child was the speaker and when the child was the listener.


          Language results continue to pose problems for the HFA and WS groups compared to their typically developing (TD) peers. For non-verbal communicative behaviors, a qualitative difference in the use of eye gaze was found between the HFA and WS groups. For facial expression, the WS and TD groups produced more facial expressions than the HFA group.

          Research limitations/implications

          No differences were observed in the HFA group when playing different roles in a conversation, suggesting they are not as sensitive to the social rules of a conversation as their peers. Insights from this study add knowledge toward understanding social-communicative development in school-age children.


          In this study, two non-verbal behaviors will be assessed in multiple contexts: the entire biographical interview, when the child is the speaker and when the child is the listener. These social and expressive measures give an indication of how expressive school-age children are and provide information on their attention, affective state and communication skills when conversing with an adult. Insights from this study will add knowledge toward understanding social-communicative development in school-age children.

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          Most cited references 39

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          Visual Fixation Patterns During Viewing of Naturalistic Social Situations as Predictors of Social Competence in Individuals With Autism

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            Viewing it differently: social scene perception in Williams syndrome and autism.

            The genetic disorder Williams syndrome (WS) is associated with a propulsion towards social stimuli and interactions with people. In contrast, the neuro-developmental disorder autism is characterised by social withdrawal and lack of interest in socially relevant information. Using eye-tracking techniques we investigate how individuals with these two neuro-developmental disorders associated with distinct social characteristics view scenes containing people. The way individuals with these disorders view social stimuli may impact upon successful social interactions and communication. Whilst individuals with autism spend less time than is typical viewing people and faces in static pictures of social interactions, the opposite is apparent for those with WS whereby exaggerated fixations are prevalent towards the eyes. The results suggest more attention should be drawn towards understanding the implications of atypical social preferences in WS, in the same way that attention has been drawn to the social deficits associated with autism.
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              Coding gestural behavior with the NEUROGES--ELAN system.

              We present a coding system combined with an annotation tool for the analysis of gestural behavior. The NEUROGES coding system consists of three modules that progress from gesture kinetics to gesture function. Grounded on empirical neuropsychological and psychological studies, the theoretical assumption behind NEUROGES is that its main kinetic and functional movement categories are differentially associated with specific cognitive, emotional, and interactive functions. ELAN is a free, multimodal annotation tool for digital audio and video media. It supports multileveled transcription and complies with such standards as XML and Unicode. ELAN allows gesture categories to be stored with associated vocabularies that are reusable by means of template files. The combination of the NEUROGES coding system and the annotation tool ELAN creates an effective tool for empirical research on gestural behavior.

                Author and article information

                Advances in Autism
                Emerald Publishing
                30 June 2020
                03 December 2020
                : 6
                : 4
                : 277-288
                Department of Communication Disorders, University of Nebraska Kearney , Kearney, Nebraska, USA
                Author notes
                Philip To Lai can be contacted at:
                648506 AIA-11-2019-0044.pdf AIA-11-2019-0044
                © Emerald Publishing Limited
                Page count
                Figures: 4, Tables: 2, Equations: 0, References: 39, Pages: 1, Words: 6310
                research-article, Research paper
                cat-HSC, Health & social care
                cat-LID, Learning & intellectual disabilities
                Custom metadata
                Web-ready article package


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