In the first year of life, the ability to engage in sustained synchronous interactions develops as infants learn to match social partner behaviors and sequentially regulate their behaviors in response to others. Difficulties developing competence in these early social building blocks can impact later language skills, joint attention, and emotion regulation. For children at elevated risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), early dyadic synchrony and responsiveness difficulties may be indicative of emerging ASD and/or developmental concerns. As part of a prospective developmental monitoring study, infant siblings of children with ASD (high-risk group n = 104) or typical development (low-risk group n = 71), and their mothers completed a standardized play task when infants were 6, 9, and/or 12 months of age. These interactions were coded for the frequency and duration of infant and mother gaze, positive affect, and vocalizations, respectively. Using these codes, theory-driven composites were created to index dyadic synchrony and infant/maternal responsiveness. Multilevel models revealed significant risk group differences in dyadic synchrony and infant responsiveness by 12 months of age. In addition, high-risk infants with higher dyadic synchrony and infant responsiveness at 12 months received significantly higher receptive and expressive language scores at 36 months. The findings of the present study highlight that promoting dyadic synchrony and responsiveness may aid in advancing optimal development in children at elevated risk for autism. LAY SUMMARY: In families raising children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), younger siblings are at elevated risks for social communication difficulties. The present study explored whether social-communication differences were evident during a parent-child play task at 6, 9, and 12 months of age. For infant siblings of children with ASD, social differences during play were observed by 12 months of age and may inform ongoing monitoring and intervention efforts.
© 2020 International Society for Autism Research and Wiley Periodicals LLC.