In addition to social skills and language, another diagnostic marker especially for young children is a lack of joint attention (JA). By 8 months most children will follow a parentís gaze when the parent looks away; that is, the child looks jointly with the parent at the object. By 10 or 12 months, if the parent points to an object, most children will turn and look at the pointed object, and then turn and look back at the parent. Children with ASDs often lack joint attention and will ignore what seizes the parentís attention. "Joint attention behaviors involve the triadic coordination or sharing of attention among the infant, another person and an object or event. Joint attention skills typically emerge between 6 and 14 months and include following a caregiver's gaze, following a point, showing and pointing. Joint attention impairments do not cause autism; rather they are manifestations of abnormalities of early brain development" (Johnson, 2004).
"All [intervention] programs should incorporate curricula that promote joint attention skill development. Joint attention skills play a 'pivotal' role in later communication and social development, i.e., they are the skills upon which progress depends" (Johnson, 2004; Whalen, Schreibman, 2003).