The terms "social referencing" and "joint attention" are closely related. Here, we define social referencing as a person's ability to monitor another's behaviour, and adapt his/her own behaviour according to its effect. Joint attention refers to a person's ability to simultaneously attend to both another person and an object or event. Joint attention is one of the skills underlying social referencing. The Autism Speaks video glossary
is an excellent resource to see the difference between the social referencing of typical children and children with ASD.
Referencing supports Play
Social referencing has been found to play an important predictive role in how the development of children's play. Children with ASD seem to be particularly affected in their ability to engage in pretend play ( Charman et al, 1997 ). Recent evidence suggests that this may be directly related to autistic children's difficulties in the area of social referencing. For example, Rutherford et. al. (2007) conducted a longitudinal study of play development in typical, autistic, and developmentally delayed children. They found that joint attention was the only factor which successfully predicted the development of children's play. Other factors such as developmental level, executive function, and imitation skills had no predictive value.
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