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Nonverbal Affective Decoding Ability In Children With Autism And In Typical Preschoolers

ROBERTS S. FELDMAN, GAIL G. McGEE, LEESA MANN, PHILLIP STRAIN

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Twelve male children with autism and twelve male typical children viewed a series of videotaped vignettes in which two interacting children displayed differing facial expressions of happiness, sadness, or anger. To test their skills in decoding nonverbal facial expressions, participants were asked which of the two children was displaying a particular expression. Results showed that the typical children were more accurate in their decoding of expressions than were the children with autism for each of the three emotions studied. However, the children with autism did show certain decoding ability: they were able to identify happiness vignettes at above-chance levels. The results have implications for assessing and ultimately remediating nonverbal skill deficits in children with autism.