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USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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News and Events

Toddler palace may house clues to social skills in autism
November 12, 2016

Dr. Barbara Thompson's research is highlighted at the 2016 Society for Neuroscience meeting

Autism Chan in the Media Conferences Faculty Research

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By Sarah Deweerdt/Spectrum News

Toddler Palace

Palace keep: The amount of time a young child spends in a play castle may provide hints about her social motivation.

A half-hour-long ‘playdate’ between a toddler and an adult could help answer a long-standing question about whether and how much a child with autism is interested in social interactions.

Researchers presented the new paradigm yesterday at the 2016 Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in San Diego.

“There are two hypotheses about what’s driving why kids with autism have social deficits,” says Barbara Thompson, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. One possibility is that children with autism just aren’t interested in socializing, and the other is that they actively dislike it.

It’s a difficult debate to resolve because even typically developing children can’t articulate much about their inner desires and motivations. That task would be even harder for children with autism, who have communication impairments.

Read the full article at Spectrum News.