Yale University

Understanding Autism

An educational resource from the Yale Child Study Center

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Katarzyna (Kasia) Chawarska, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Psychology

Director, Developmental Disabilities Clinic for Infants and Toddlers

My research interests focus primarily on two lines of inquiry: (1) research leading to a better understanding of the early phenotypic expression of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and (2) examining mechanisms that underlie gaze and face processing abnormalities observed in infants and toddlers with ASD. My clinical research has been centered on examining the stability of early diagnosis of ASD, variability of the early syndrome expression as related to outcome, as well as determining when and in which areas the developmental trajectories of infants with ASD begin to diverge from those without social disability. Towards this end I have been following prospectively the development of infants who are either at risk for development of ASD or who are showing early signs of the disorder and tracking their development of verbal, nonverbal and social-cognitive skills.

Experimental work in my lab is focused on studying visual processing in young children with ASD using eye-tracking technology. We are currently conducting studies on face scanning and recognition, attentional aspects of face processing, as well as perception of direct gaze and gaze-related intentional action in the first three year of life.

Determining which components of gaze and face processing are impaired and which are preserved in infants and toddlers with ASD will help advance our appreciation of mechanisms underlying social abnormalities in the early stages of the disorder. This evolving understanding of the condition will be consequential for designing early screening and intervention methods.