College of Science and Engineering, Hamad Bin Khalifa University & Texas A&M University at Qatar
The Effects of Visual Stimuli on Attention in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Eye-Tracking Study
Attention is one of the fundamental elements of effective learning. The design of learning environments often consists of a blend of visual stimuli. Investigating the effect of visual stimuli types on the attention of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is important for the theoretical understanding of attention. This study explores the effect of social and nonsocial visual stimuli on the attention of children with ASD and typically developing (TD) children in a simulated virtual classroom. Forty-six participants (ASD = 20, TD = 26) took part in a series of attention tests, in which social and nonsocial visual stimuli were used as target stimuli. We examined four eye-gaze measures: time to first fixate, first fixation duration, average fixation duration, and the sum of fixation count. The results show that social and nonsocial stimuli do not affect the attention of ASD and TD children. However, TD children pay significantly greater attention to target stimuli than children with ASD. These findings emphasize the strengths of children with ASD during attention tasks and the potential for the use of eye-gaze measures to identify attention impairment in children with ASD. This study thus recommends an investigation methodology for on-task attention assessment in a
The real-time eye-gaze measures were recorded and analyzed using the iMotions commercial software. The tool provides real-time analysis of single or integrated biometric measures. In the current study, this software extracted eyetracking data. The software records the fixation duration and scan path of the eyes, as well as raw data from the eyetracking devices.
We analyzed the attention distribution pattern based on AOIs generated using four eye-gaze measures, described as follows:
• TTFF: Measures the time it takes to look at the first AOI in the stimuli.
• FFD: Gives the total time of first look at AOI.
• AFD: Provides the mean value of the entire fixation duration for each AOI and provides insight into how the
participants pay attention to stimuli.
• SFC: Estimates the number of looks made on each AOI throughout the viewing time.
INDEX TERMS Autism spectrum disorder, eye-tracking, eye gaze, on-task attention, visual stimuli, virtual
classroom, typically developing children.
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