A new study from researchers at the University of Texas in Dallas and other institutions has found that early social interactions can crucially shape the quality of human-to-human contact for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

According to a press release from UT Dallas, the team presented non-autistic participants with videos depicting individuals with autism interacting socially and asked them to report first impressions. Results showed that people with ASD came off as trustworthy and intelligent, but were rated low on crucial social aspects of likeability and awkwardness.

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The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports. The findings also revealed that people with ASD are aware of the way they’re viewed by people without autism, which actually makes social interactions even more difficult.

“Our study provides evidence that the social difficulties faced by people with autism are exacerbated by how they are perceived by other people,” explained study author Dr. Noah Sasson, according to the release.

“We tend to think of social difficulties in autism as an individual impairment. But social interaction is a two-way street, and their social challenges are often affected by the judgments and social decisions made by those around them,” he added.

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An additional aspect of the study — which was carried out by researchers at Indiana University — revealed that people with autism reported a strong interest in social relationships, as well as high rates of loneliness.

Source: Sasson NJ, Faso DJ, Nugent J, Lovell S, Kennedy DP, Grossman RB. Neurotypical Peers are Less Willing to Interact with Those with Autism based on Thin Slice Judgments. Scientific Reports. 2017.

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