Oct. 23, 2008 -- Question: What is the meaning of the term "joint attention," and does everyone with autism lack joint attention skills?
Answer: There's a common theme that, or common perception that folks on the autism spectrum lack joint attention and I think there's certainly much more evident in very young children. And what it means is that the autistic person and the other person with whom they're communicating with are sharing the same point of attention. So for example, one says "Look at the doggie," both of the person speaking as well as the person to whom you're addressing are supposed to look at the doggie at the same time so you're sharing the same point of attention.
This in older adults, autistic adults and adolescents, this is much less evident and I think partly because many of them have learned how to do it over time. The question is whether or not it's automatically developed or whether it has to be taught later on and I think that's an open question.