Gazing into the future: Social attention differences for those with autism


Individuals with autism won’t suddenly concern themselves with social interactions if they don’t show interest early in their lives.

In a fascinating exploration of childhood development, researchers from the University of Geneva delved into the world of attention and gaze patterns in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). So, let’s break it down and understand the world through the eyes of these unique little individuals.

As kids grow, their eyes are drawn to the social elements around them, like faces and interactions. This instinct, crucial for survival and adaptation, also sets the stage for understanding of complex social interactions to come. But this isn’t what happens for those with ASD, who are instead drawn to non-social stimuli, like textures or shapes.

The researchers used a cool little gadget, an eye-tracking device, to see how kids with ASD look at cartoons compared to their typically developing counterparts. Imagine a scene between Winnie the Pooh and Piglet. Those without ASD, would be drawn to the social interactions between the two characters, such as their faces and their conversations. But kids with ASD have their own unique visual interests and would instead fixate on objects or unusual quirks in the scenery of the cartoon, rather than Winnie and Piglet. But there’s a plot twist: those with ASD, whose visual interests closely resembled their typically developing peers, had better cognitive skills and improved functioning in everyday life.

This underscores the importance of early intervention. Lead researcher Marie Schaer says, “These findings show how important it is for therapeutic interventions to target social attention at a very early stage in ASD children, especially those with the greatest developmental delay.” Indeed, individuals with ASD won’t suddenly concern themselves with social interactions if they don’t show interest early in their lives.

So, here’s to understanding the world through the eyes of these incredible kids, embracing their unique visual understandings, and working towards a future where early tailored support leads them in a successful developmental journey.

California’s Sweet Deal: A Five-Year Tax Break on Breastfeeding Essentials!

In a move that’s sure to bring smiles to the faces of new parents, California has announced a five-year window of tax exemptions on a range of breastfeeding essentials. From April 1, 2024, to March 31, 2029, sales or use of breast pumps and related supplies are completely tax-free.

Picture this: No sales or use tax on breast pumps or related supplies, such as breast pump kits, electric or manually controlled pump devices, power supply units, breast shields, tubing, valves, membranes, backflow protectors, bottle-related items, breast milk storage bags—you name it! We’re waving goodbye to those extra charges during this exciting period.

Why does this matter, you ask? Well, let’s break it down:

Financial Freedom and Relief
This tax exemption isn’t just about saving a few dollars, it’s about financial relief. Navigating the early stages of parenthood has a whirlwind of expenses, and every bit of savings counts. With this move, California is giving a helping hand to families by ensuring that essential breastfeeding items don’t cost more than they have to.

Accessible Essentials for All
California wants to make breastfeeding more accessible to everyone. By removing the sales and use tax, the state is opening doors for parents to easily acquire the necessary tools for a successful breastfeeding experience. It’s a step towards creating a more inclusive environment for families, regardless of their financial situation.

Boosting Accessibility for Every Family
This tax exemption is a game-changer for those with limited resources, ensuring that every family, regardless of their budget, can access the essential items needed for breastfeeding. It’s a move towards a more equitable and supportive community.

So, how does it all work? Retailers are advised not to charge or collect sales or use tax on the specified breastfeeding items during this five-year span. Sellers will report these sales in their total gross sales on tax returns, claiming the deductions under Nontaxable sales.

For those who have questions or want more details, you can reach out to the Customer Service Center of the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDFTA) at 1-800-400-7115 or see their official website for further information (website).

California’s tax exemption on breastfeeding essentials isn’t just about numbers—it’s a celebration of parenthood, a nod to the beauty of breastfeeding, and a promise of support for families across the state. So, here’s to a tax-free journey into the world of parenting!

Unraveling the Impact of Screen Time on Infant Development

In the age of technology, concerns about its influence on children’s development are on the rise. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time for babies under 18-24 months. However, a groundbreaking study from researchers at Drexel’s College of Medicine takes it a step further, suggesting that the impact of screen time on infants may be more significant than we thought.

The Study
The study, involving 1,471 children, uncovered a connection between screen time exposure and the development of atypical sensory behaviors. The researchers categorized behaviors as “high,” “typical,” or “low” sensory levels. High sensory behaviors indicate that children are easily stimulated and overwhelmed by sensory information, potentially leading to sensory avoidance later in life, low sensory behaviors indicate difficulty processing or interpreting sensory information.

Key Findings
At 12 months, screen exposure correlated with a staggering 105% greater likelihood of exhibiting “high” sensory behaviors.
By 18 months, each additional hour of daily screen time was linked to a 23% increase in displaying “high” sensory behaviors.
At 24 months, each extra hour of daily screen time correlated to a 20% increase in displaying “high” sensory behaviors.
Beyond the Numbers

This study echoes broader concerns about the impact of screen time on developmental outcomes in infants and toddlers. The list includes language and problem-solving delays, behavioral issues, sleep struggles, and decreased attention. Lead author Karen Heffler, MD, points out the potential implications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism, where atypical sensory processing is prevalent.

A Link to Behavioral Problems
Heffler suggests that due to the association between screen time and behavioral problems, reducing screen time, in addition to existing therapy measures, could be beneficial for children showing signs of sensory issues. Moreover, she speculates that this could be a contributing factor to the rise in autism and ADHD diagnoses.

The Evolution of Screen Time
As technology has advanced, so has screen time. A 2023 study reveals that, on average, children at 6 months were exposed to 1 hour and 16 minutes of screen time per day (Brushe et al., 2023). By 24 months, this increased to an average of 2 hours and 28 minutes daily. The study underscores the need for attention to screen time patterns, as some children exceeded 3 hours of screen time at 6 months.

The Path Forward
While the Drexel study focused on TV and DVDs, it sheds light on the broader connection between screen time and atypical sensory behaviors. The authors emphasize the need for further research to understand specific sensory-related behaviors and whether early childhood screen exposure limits can enhance sensory development.

In the complex landscape of technology and infant development, this study acts as a compass, guiding parents, caregivers, and researchers toward a deeper understanding of the intricate relationship between screen time and sensory development in our youngest generation.