August 10, 2022 Joint Attention Issues in Autistic Children
Autistic children and those with developmental delays tend to experience challenges with joint attention. If you've been wondering how you can help a child with a joint attention deficit, then don’t worry. You'll know how by the time you're done reading this article.
What Is Joint Attention?Joint attention (JA) involves sharing a united focus on something with another person for the purpose of interacting with each other. The object of focus could be other people, objects, events, or concepts. While engrossed in joint attention, you can communicate non-verbally, for example, by gazing at an object and then looking at the other individual. Joint attention starts in infancy and develops throughout early childhood, and the first instances usually involve a child and their parents. These moments happen when the child and the parent switch their attention and eye contact back and forth from an item to one another.Some early joint attention abilities may include a child looking on the same book page as their parent or reaching out to an adult for a lift. Advanced joint attention skills may include the child's ability to focus on a game or request food, toys, or other items.
What Are Examples of Joint Attention?Joint attention in toddlers may occur in two ways: spontaneous initiations and responses to the actions of other people. In most cases, it involves the use of eye contact, gestures like finger-pointing, and vocalizations, such as spoken words. The toddler can initiate social interaction. For instance, they can draw their parent's attention to a toy by pointing at it and gazing at their parent. Both the parent and the child maintain eye contact in this case. Older kids may use vocalizations to attract attention. For example, "Hey, Mom, check this out."The child may also respond to joint attention initiated by another person. For instance, a parent uses a gesture (finger pointing) toward a toy and says, "Check out the toy!" The toddler reacts by following the parent's finger to gaze at the toy.Joint attention plays a crucial role in language development in children. Here's why it's important:
Why Is Joint Attention Important?You find more joy when you share your experiences with another person. The same applies to kids as they experience the sights and sounds of their immediate environment. A child, for example, may respond to a sound by gazing at the source and then looking at you with a smile.You can also initiate joint attention by pointing at a particular object and looking at the toddler. The child will consequently realize that grownups wish to share attention with them. Such interactions emphasize the back-and-forth activity needed for communication skills.Kids must repeatedly interact with you first before they can listen to what you're saying. With time, through consistent listening and responding to your words, they connect meaning to your words and thus grasp what you're saying.If your child is experiencing delayed language skills, then there's a higher chance that they lack consistent interaction. Here is an illustration to show how kids develop speech-language skills via joint attention:
- Interaction reinforces listening.
- Listening contributes to understanding language.
- Language understanding leads to the use of the language itself.
- Using language, including facial expressions, gestures, and eye contact, encourages talking.