Do autistic persons show what they mean?

1 Sep

How facially expressive are persons with autism?

By Lirio S. Covey, Ph.D.

Facial expression is an important means of communication. Being able to accurately express inner emotion is critical in conducting meaningful social interactions.

A recent article that compiled and analyzed findings from 39 well conducted research studies found that persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are less expressive overall than persons without ASD.

In addition, their facial expressions were found to be less consistent or appropriate to the social context. This characteristic, the authors of the study suggest, likely contributes to the deficits of persons with autism in effecting reciprocal social interactions.

Difficulty in social interaction and communication is one of the two core symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (Repetitive, compulsive behaviors and resistance to change is the other).

Variations in the extent and degree of this deficit among different autistic persons were noted in the research. When compared with non-ASD persons these differences were smaller with older age and higher intellectual functioning. An implication of this finding is that more knowledge and familiarity with social practices and norms could improve the deficit in appropriate and meaningful facial expression. Such familiarity could come with greater socialization and experiences in variable social contexts and experiences in wider social settings.

This would imply that greater socialization and experiences with persons without ASD, an outcome of inclusion practices in employment, recreational, and educational settings, could ameliorate, over time, the lack of social competencies notable in persons with ASD.

Reference: Facial Expression production in Autism: a Meta-analysis. Dominic A. Trevisan

Maureen Hoskyn, Elina Birminghamm Autism Research, December 2018

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