Eyes are said to be a window into the soul. They express emotions, personality, and depth beyond which any facial expression can hide. In certain cases, eyes do not only tell us important things about the nature of the soul; they may also signify early developmental issues.
Recently, researchers have postulated that tracking the eye movements of infants may indicate the emergence of ASD later in their toddlerhood. Thus far, they have noted that these children tend to focus their eyes less and look much more rapidly (and in many different directions) than do typically developing children.
Researchers believe that this rapid eye movement may signal possible learning deficiencies exhibited later on in development. One explanation for this could be that rapid scanning signifies a disengagement from one’s surroundings. This also may be related to rapid processing, which is a trait commonly found in autism. However, it could also simply demonstrate a child’s need for stimulation within their environment.
By studying 100 six-month-old infants who looked at a static image, researchers at the University of London found that the infants who would later develop ASD tended to move their eyes around more than infants who followed a more typical path of development.
As mentioned earlier, this could simply be a sign of the infants’ differing needs to stimulation. However, it could also signify an easily identifiable early sign to enable an early autism diagnosis. More research needs to be conducted but for the time being, diagnosticians are taking these findings seriously in looking at infants who already demonstrate early risk factors.
Sara Power, Fordham University