Purpose: This research note reports on how small changes to the organization of a simulated display for augmentative and alternative communication influence the visual search patterns of individuals with Down syndrome or autism, as measured through eye tracking technologies. Prior research had demonstrated that clustering symbols by their internal color facilitates search and reduces attention to distracters, in children with typical development. This research systematically replicated the procedures with individuals with Down syndrome or autism spectrum disorder. Method: Participants engaged in a visual search task on a monitor with embedded automated eye tracking technology. Patterns of gaze during search were measured via this technology. Results: Participants were significantly faster to fixate on the target and to select it with the mouse when the like-colored symbols were clustered together. In addition, participants were significantly less likely to fixate on distracters in the clustered condition. No group differences were found. Conclusions: Small changes to the organization of the simulated augmentative and alternative communication display resulted in substantial differences in eye gaze and speed to find a target. Of greatest clinical import is the finding that clustering symbols reduced attention to distracters, given that individuals with disabilities may be prone to distraction.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Linguistics and Language
- Speech and Hearing