Visual Local - Global Processing in 3 - Year Old at Risk Siblings with and without Diagnosis and Typically Developing Children

Saturday, May 13, 2017: 12:00 PM-1:40 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
E. Nilsson Jobs1, T. Falck-Ytter2,3 and S. Bolte4, (1)Uppsala University, Uppsala, SWEDEN, (2)Psychology, Uppsala Universitet, Box 1225, Uppsala, SWEDEN, (3)KIND (Center of Neurodevelopmental Disorders), Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, (4)Center of Neurodevelopmental Disorders at Karolinska Institutet (KIND), Institutionen för kvinnors och barns hälsa (KBH), Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

Visual processing has been extensively investigated in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) aged 6 years and older. In brief, the literature suggests superiority in local processing, but also slower global processing than local processing in individuals with ASD. Little is known about local vs. global visual processing in young children with ASD.


The aim of this study was to investigate local and global processing in 3-year old high risk (HR) siblings with an ASD diagnosis (HR+), without ASD diagnosis (HR-), and in low risk (LR) siblings. We expected a local-over-global advantage in the HR+ compared to HR- and LR groups in terms of accuracy and/or response latency.


Participants Thirty-two children (age M = 39.6 months, SD = 4.2) from the longitudinal Early Autism Sweden (EASE) study participated: eight LR (3 girls, 5 boys, age M 38.21 months, SD = 3.03), 16 HR- (11 girls, 5 boys, age M 39.64 months, SD = 4.33) and 8 HR+ (6 girls, 2 boys, age M 41.10 months, SD = 5.05).

Diagnostic assessment ASD diagnosis was based on clinical consensus and DSM-5 criteria, and supported by assessment with ADOS-2, ADI-R, Vineland II, and the Mullen Scales of Early Learning.

Local/Global tasks Established measures of local and global processing such as the Embedded Figures Test and the Fragmented Picture Test (modified to suit 3-year olds) were collected. In addition, the local measures Hidden Figures and Figure-Ground were applied as well as the global measure Closure. Accuracy, latency and local/global discrepancy of task performance were evaluated



A series of one-way ANOVAs with post hoc tests (Bonferroni corrected) were conducted for all visual processing measures. We found a significant between group effect for the local measure Hidden Figures [F (2, 29) = 5.28; p = .011], in which the HR+ group performed more accurately (M = 14.13; SD = 1.46) than both HR-and LR groups (M = 10.81; SD = 3.47, p = .013; M = 10.00; SD = 1.93, p = .016, respectively). No other group differences were found.


In line with our hypothesis and with previous findings of a local processing bias in older individuals with ASD, three year olds with autism spectrum disorder showed superior performance on the local processing measure Hidden figures compared to both other groups. Although implications are limited due to small sample size and the fact that only one measure yielded significant results, the findings nevertheless extend earlier evidence of enhanced local processing in ASD to early childhood.