Purdue University Graduate School

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Temporal dyadic processes and developmental trajectories in children at elevated risk for autism

posted on 2022-07-27, 19:58 authored by Ashleigh M KellermanAshleigh M Kellerman


Dyadic play interactions are a cornerstone of early development and difficulty engaging in sustained synchronous interactions are linked to later difficulties with language and joint attention. For children at elevated risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it is unclear if early difficulties in synchronous exchanges could inform later diagnoses. As part of a prospective monitoring study, infant siblings of children with ASD (high-risk group) or typical development (low-risk group), and their mothers completed a standardized play task. Play interactions for infants were evaluated to: (1) assess if early difficulties with social responsiveness or synchrony proceed ASD diagnoses within the first year; (2) explore whether repertoires of observed synchronous behaviors distinguish ASD-risk; and (3) examine whether the unfolding rates of synchrony and responsiveness over continuous time highlight ASD-risk differences. 

By 12 months, distinct mean-level differences in synchrony and responsiveness by risk status were observed. Higher synchrony and responsiveness totals were also positively associated with infants later language and cognitive scores and negatively associated with ASD symptom severity (Chapter 2). Although, dyads utilized mostly comparable repertoires of observed synchronous and responsive behaviors, regardless of group membership (Chapter 3). And lastly, the overall rates of unfolding synchrony and responsiveness were fairly stable throughout the interaction. However, distinct patterns by ASD-risk and developmental outcomes were evident (Chapter 4). Ultimately, the encompassed studies did not consistently find robust ASD-specific differences. However, these studies did demonstrate the applicability of advanced methodologies to provide relevant contextual/dyadic elements (beyond the field’s norm of mean-level totals), particularly for infants with non-autism developmental concerns. Future research should build upon these studies to assess synchrony and responsiveness growth curves that extend beyond 12 months of age, as well as utilize behavioral coding approaches that systematically capture both synchronous and asynchronous exchanges.


NIH K99/R00 MH092431

NIH R01 MH068398

NIH F31 HD101282


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Human Development and Family Studies

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

AJ Schwichtenberg

Additional Committee Member 2

Bridgette Kelleher

Additional Committee Member 3

Jessica Lougheed

Additional Committee Member 4

German Posada

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