Autism: Child and Adolescent Development


The purpose of the study was to investigate the initiation of joint attention (JA) on the development of social and cognitive abilities among children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). JA relates to skills associated with use of eye contact, and gestures such as pointing and following (Schietecatte et al., 2011). It has been established that children with autism exhibit various forms of JA impairments (Hahler &Elsabbagh, 2015; University of Rochester Medical Center, 2022). Since the impairments deny them an opportunity to participate in different shared experiences, they make it difficult for them to develop effective communication and language skills. As a result, the children tend to experience difficulties in the development of social interaction as well as communication skills (Ridderinkhof, 2020).

In the study, it was hypothesized that joint attention is a social motivation for children with ASD to participate in social interactions. The results of the study were congruent with the hypothesis of the study. From the findings of the study, it was established that that about 70% of the research participants portrayed high JA on coordinated pointing characterized by eye gaze. This particular finding provides valuable information on the ability of children to initiate JA (Kasari, et al., 2005). Similar research findings show that children are able to initiate JA at a very young age (Miendl & Cannella-Malone, 2011; Schietecatte et al., 2011). They practice using gestures such as pointing and gazes that include eye contact. As they grow up, the children learn to add the aspect of vocalization to their communication.

The ability to initiate JA shows that a child is socially motivated. JA is essential for social, language, and cognitive development (Kasari, et al., 2005; Australian Parenting Website, 2021). Children who tend to orient themselves more with others within the social context learn language skills through observations and social interactions (Franchini et al., 2017). However, the children who do not embrace the aspect of orienting with others in the social context encounter challenges in developing not only the language skills but also cognitive abilities. Most children with autism are not interested in social interactions. This makes it difficult for them to develop effective language and communication skills.

Low social motivation (SM) is a key factor for social communication and interaction deficits reported among children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (Ridderinkhof, 2020). Such children encounter challenges when trying to orient themselves to a given salient stimulus that is likely t o provide important information necessary for learning and cognitive development. This particular causal pathway is supported by evidence from some longitudinal studies that suggest the presence of lack of the ability to orient to an auditory or visual social stimulus during the early years of development (Chevallier et al., 2012; Falck-Ytter et al., 2013)

The findings of this study contribute to JA research in the sense that children with autism can benefit from this model’s interventions. Most researchers support the idea of initiating JA among autistic children (Miendl & Cannella-Malone, 2011). The finding of the study relied on the JA behaviors among children with autism. Accurate interpretation would have been reached with the inclusion of a control group in the study.  It is also important to note that the 20% inclusion of the female study participants was not representative of the general study population.. It was necessary to include a balanced sample representing respondents of both gender.


Australian Parenting Website.(2021). Signs of Autism in Older Children and Teenagers. Retrieved from

Chevallier, C., Kohls, G., Troiani, V., Brodkin, E. S., & Schultz, R. T. (2012). The Social Motivation Theory of Autism. Trends Cogn. Sci., 16: 231–239.

Falck-Ytter, T., Rehnberg, E., & Bölte, S. (2013). Lack of Visual Orienting to Biological Motion and Audiovisual Synchrony in 3-Year-Olds with Autism. PLoS One, 8: e68816. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0068816

Hahler, E. &Elsabbagh, M. (2015). Autism: A Global Perspective. Current Developmental Disorders Reports, 2: 58-64.

Kasari, C., Freeman, S., Paparella, T., Wong, C., Kwon, S., &Gulsrud, A. (2005). Early Intervention on Core Deficits in Autism. Clinical Neuropsychiatry, 2 (6): 380-388.

Miendl, J.N. &Cannella-Malone, H.I. (2011). Initiating and responding to joint attention bids in children with autism: A review of the literature. Research in Developmental Disabilities 32: 1441-1454

Ridderinkhof, A., de Bruin, E. I., van den Driesschen, S., & Bögels, S. M. (2020). Attention in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and the Effects of a Mindfulness-Based Program. Journal of Attention Disorders24(5), 681–692. Retrieved from

Schietecatte, I., Roeyers, H., Warreyn, P.(2011). Exploring the Nature of Joint Attention Impairments in Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Associated Social and Cognitive Skills. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 42(1):1-12.

Uljarević, M., Frazier, T. W., Jo, B., Phillips, J. M., Billingham, W., Cooper, M. N., & Hardan, A. Y. (2021). Relationship between Social Motivation in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Their Parents. Neurosci.

University of Rochester Medical Center. (2022). Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Retrieved from

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