Children with autism respond well to puppets: new study

Children with autism respond well to puppets: new study

Puppets can attract and hold the attention of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), increasing the potential to develop more engaging therapies that strengthen social engagement and facilitate learning, according to a new study by researchers from the Center for Studies. Yale Children’s.

The study, published in the journal Autism Research , is the first to test anecdotal evidence that children with ASD, like most young people, pay attention to puppets.

Studying visual attention patterns

In a series of experiments, the researchers examined the visual attention patterns of young children with ASD, along with a control group of typically developing children, in response to a video showing an animated interaction between Violet, a puppet of bright colors and a human counterpart .

The findings suggest that puppets could become an entry point for teaching children with ASD about prominent social cues and encouraging them to participate in social exchanges.

They found that the attention patterns of the children with ASD were similar to those of the children in the control group when Violet spoke, and both groups of children spent a similar proportion of time looking at her face and showing a strong preference for the talking puppet .

For the study, participants sat in a dark, soundproof room in front of a wide-screen LED monitor and were then shown an 86-second video created by Henson and staff at the Jim Henson Foundation in association with the researchers. The researchers used eye-tracking software to monitor the children’s visual attention as they watched the video of Violet in a playful conversation with a woman named "Z."