Focus of Attention

"Focus of Attention" is studying a type of attention problem where an individual "over-focuses" on only one small part of a picture, printed word, face, etc. Over-focusing (also called stimulus overselectivity or overselective attention) can cause difficulties with important life skills like recognizing faces and reading. As examples, people who over-focus on isolated facial features may have difficulty recognizing emotional expressions, or they may over-focus on individual letters and have trouble distinguishing similar printed words, like "cat" and "can." Your child's participation in the Focus of Attention study will help develop improved teaching techniques for special education classrooms to reduce the effects of this type of problem.

What is involved and who can participate?

This five year project includes a number of different studies. You may participate in one or more studies depending on the results of the studies and your interest and convenience. The study will include typically developing children ages 3-8, and children and adolescents ages 7-21 with autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disabilities, or Down syndrome. Current recruiting needs may vary over time.  The children/teens who take part in this study will perform matching activities on a computer, much like games.

What are the possible benefits?

There are a number of possible benefits to having your child participate in this research:

  • Your child will receive a language test and you may request the results.  S/he may also receive other developmental and diagnostic testing, including an IQ test and you may request the results of those as well.  These results do not substitute for a formal evaluation, but they may be useful.
  • Your child may enjoy one-on-one time with research staff who will share activities that are like matching games.
  • You may ask for a brief report about your child’s progress.
  • By participating, your child will contribute to the understanding of autism and intellectual disabilities.

When and where does the research study take place?

Study visits can take place in the home or at the Shriver Center in Waltham, MA. Sessions are scheduled at mutually convenient times and places.

You will be compensated for time spent transporting or waiting for your child.

Where do I get more information?

For more information contact a Research Coordinator:

Marlana Mueller: 781-642-0037 or
Lucy Lorin: 781-642-0056 or

Download the Focus of Attention Study Flyer pdficonsmall

UMMS IRB Docket # H-13761