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Avoidance in tasks predicts Autism Spectrum behaviors

The Yale Daily News has covered work by Micah Mammen, a doctoral candidate in Clinical Psychology, and Jenae Neiderhiser, Liberal Arts Research Professor of Psychology, in collaboration with researchers from the University of New Orleans, Yale University, George Washington University, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Oregon.

In the study, parents of adopted children painted their nine-month-old infants’ hands and feet and pressed them on paper to form flowers. The researchers collected observational data on the infants’ negative reactions — the expression of unpleasant feelings or emotions — and avoidance behaviors such as looking away from the task or physical resistance to the task. Researchers concluded that since touch is essential in early social interactions, avoiding physical contact during infancy might predict impaired social development, a main indicator of ASD.

“Our findings suggest that avoidant responses to touch during infancy may specifically predict deficits in social development, such as autism spectrum behaviors,” said Micah Mammen, lead study author and doctoral candidate in child clinical psychology at Pennsylvania State University. “Including measures of responses to touch in the study of early social interaction may help to identify young children at greater risk for social impairments.”

Additional information can be found through The Yale Daily News. The study, "Infant Avoidance During a Tactile Task Predicts Autism Spectrum Behaviors in Toddlerhood," was published in the Infant Mental Health Journal.

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