The Relationship between Turn Taking and Joint Attention in Interactions between Caregivers and Young Children with Autism

Poster Presentation
Saturday, May 4, 2019: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Room: 710 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
K. Lee, S. Safran and H. Schertz, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

It has been theorized that turn taking, defined as simple back-and-forth exchanges, is foundational to joint attention (Schertz, Odom, Baggett, & Sideris, 2018; Mundy, 2016). Turn-taking sequences may be used to convey instrumental or social intent. While turn taking may be foundational to joint attention, studies that distinguish social and instrumental turn-taking functions and their relationship to joint attention are limited.


The study sought to analyze the strength and direction of the relationship between turn taking (i.e. social and instrumental) and joint attention. We hypothesized that social turn taking would be positively correlated to responding to and initiating joint attention, and that instrumental turn taking would not.


This research utilized pre-existing video data of 20 toddlers with autism from the Joint Attention Mediated Learning (JAML) intervention study (Schertz et al., 2018), which was designed to help toddlers with autism learn social preverbal communication (i.e. joint attention) through caregiver-child interaction. Spearman’s (1904) Rank-Order Correlation Coefficient was employed to determine the strength and direction of the relationship between social turn taking and instrumental turn taking with joint attention. Instrumental Turn Taking (ITT), Social Turn Taking (STT), Responding to Joint Attention (RJA), and Initiating Joint Attention (IJA) were measured using a video observational coding system. The STT, RJA, and IJA measures from the Precursors of Joint Attention Measure coding manual (Schertz, Horn, Lee, & Mitchell, 2018b) were used. An ITT measure was added to the coding criteria for the present study. A primary observer coded a total of 120, 10-minute videos (six per participant) for observances of variables, and a secondary observer coded 25% of the videos. The mean percent agreement (and ranges) of interobserver agreement for ITT were 93.47% (76-100%), 95.22% (71-100%) for STT, 98.31% (88-100%) for RJA, and 99.15% (95-100%) for IJA.


Correlational analysis revealed a significant positive relationship between instances of STT and RJA, (18) = .481, p< .05, one-tailed. In addition, there was a significant positive relationship between instances of STT and IJA, (18) = .622, p < .00, one-tailed. In other words, there were tendencies for participants who showed more STT to also show more RJA and IJA. The coefficient of determination ( was calculated and indicated that 23.13% of the variance in STT is shared with RJA and 38.68% of the variance in STT is shared with IJA. Correlational analysis revealed no significant relationship between ITT and RJA, (18) = .337, p =.07, one-tailed, and between ITT and IJA, (18) = .161, p = .24, one-tailed.


The current study identified a positive relationship between social turn taking and both joint attention variables and no relationship between instrumental turn taking and either joint attention variable. While not causal, these findings may support the theory that social turn taking, a simple form of dyadic engagement, is foundational to triadic joint attention, a more complex form of engagement. A larger sample size is needed for future investigation for a more rigorous examination to validate the hypothesis.

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