The autistic spectrum: From theory to practice
The autistic spectrum: From theory to practice

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The autistic spectrum: From theory to practice

4.2.1 Gaze following and proto-declarative pointing

Consider how behaviour might provide one person with cues to what another person is thinking. For instance, how do you know that someone you are talking to is interested in what you are saying? They may open their eyes wide, sit up straight or make noises like ‘hmmm’. Such gestures and expressions are cues to thoughts, which we monitor all the time without being aware of it. Baron-Cohen (1995) provides evidence that the ability to use subtle behaviours, such as picking up where someone is looking and looking there too (gaze following) typically develops very early, around 8 months. Similarly the capacity to look at something to which another person is pointing, or to point in order to indicate an object of interest (proto-declarative pointing), develops at around 12 months. Both types of behaviour enable a child to co-ordinate their own mental state (attention) with another person's.

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