According to the researchers, contrary to popular belief, individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) do not have any difficulties interpreting body languages or reading emotions. This belief might have stemmed from the fact that most studies conducted in the past mainly focused on interpreting emotions by focusing on facial and eye expressions, says Candida Peterson, one of the researchers from the University of Queensland. She told:
“Looking at a face is in itself a problem. Autistic children and adults don’t like making eye contact.”
Peterson noted that children with autism will not look people in the eyes, but they can read their body language from afar.
The study conducted by Peterson and her colleagues involved children aged 5 to 12 years old, who were tasked to read the emotions of adults shown in different poses on photos where their faces were blurred out.
The researchers found that the children with autism were just as good as the typically developing ones in identifying the adults’ emotions based on the pictures.
But Julie Grezes of INSERM’s Laboratory of Cognitive Neurosciences in Paris France, said that this finding is only a part of a larger picture. She added that although children with autism may be able to read emotions just fine, the fact is that they find it difficult to adjust their behavior in response to the emotions they’ve read from people.
The fact that it is now known that they are able to interpret emotions based on body language, however, should make it easier to look for ways to help them emit the appropriate responses to corresponding emotions.
The researchers now plan to further their study by letting the children read body language cues in real-life interaction settings.
Source: Rachel David: newscientist.com: Interpreting body language is no problem for kids with autism