New research published in the Journal of Neuroscience this April demonstrates how children with autism spectrum disorder perceive motion at twice the rate of typically developing children, suggesting that perception of motion may be responsible for autism symptoms such as painful sensitivity to noise and bright lights, as well as social, behavioral deficits.
The study compared the motion perception processes of children diagnosed with ASD with those of typically developing children by having each subject watch video clips of moving black and white bars and indicate the direction of motion—left or right. When researchers increased the contrast of the bars, both groups performed better, but the autistic children significantly improved, surpassing the typically developing children in motion recognition. The worst performing subject of the autistic group for the increased contrast portion of the test responded on par with the combined average of the typically developing children. With each correct answer, researchers would shorten the length of the clip making the motion harder to distinguish. With the greater contrast, the autistic group was able to identify motion at twice the rate of the typically developing children.
The researchers suggest that the pain and disturbance that autistics often experience with sensory dense situations—like crowded malls—may be attributed to this heightened perception of motion. Additionally, many of the social and behavioral symptoms of autism—like communicative ability and face recognition—could be understood through the lens of motion perception.
At Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices we pay attention to our children’s response to their sensory environment and accommodate their needs. We are happy to see conclusive research findings that may help to explain and ultimately alleviate the complications of the autistic experience. Until then, we utilize our Snoezelen room to control the sensory stimulus our kids encounter and calm them when they are overwhelmed. Some children need this more than others or at unanticipated times, so we do our best to identify how often and when a child needs sensory relief. We have recently experienced particular success with the Snoezelen room! One of our children, who experiences ADHD as well, had been acting out extremely, jumping from chair to chair, and was generally upset and overwhelmed. We increased his Snoezelen visits from once a day to three times a day, accompanied by an Occupational Therapist. After just a week of more Snoezelen stress-free time, he was noticeably happier, able to pay attention, and less restless.
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Foss-Feig, Jennifer H., Duge Tadin, Kimberly B. Schauder, and Carissa J. Cascio. “A Substantial and Unexpected Enhancement of Motion Perception in Autism.”Journal of Neuroscience 33.19 (2013): 8243-249. Http://www.jneurosci.org/. 8 May 2013. Web. 10 May 2013. <http://www.jneurosci.org/content/33/19/8243.abstract?sid=24797967-4ff0-4f50-8b03-9b295b1c7dca>.
“Why Some Autistic Kids Are Painfully Sensitive to Noise and Bright Lights.” DNA. Www.dnaindia.com, 9 May 2013. Web. 10 May 2013. <http://www.dnaindia.com/health/1832630/report-why-some-autistic-kids-are-painfully-sensitive-to-noise-and-bright-lights>.