Excuse me while I yawn

Last week I heard a story on MSNBC saying that children with autism tend not to yawn in response to seeing others yawn. The story referred to a study published in the September/October issue of the journal Child Development that described yawning as a sort of “emotional contagion.” Molly Helt, a doctoral candidate at the University of Connecticut, got the idea to study yawning when she was on a flight with her son, who has autism.

In an attempt to help relieve painful pressure in her son’s ears, she tried to get him to yawn by yawning right in front of him.

About 45 percent of us yawn when we see someone else yawn, but Helt’s yawns had no such effect on her little one.

In Helt’s study, researchers watched children while they listened to a story read aloud. The storyteller yawned four times during the reading, and 43% of the typically developing children in the study yawned. None of the children with an autistic disorder yawned contagiously, and about 23 percent of children with pervasive developmental disorder yawned. From the MSNBC story:

“Yawning when you see someone else yawn requires empathy, on a certain level,” Helt said.

She found that most children with autism are unlikely to copy this behavior, and the finding may help scientists better understand important aspects of human communication and social behavior that children with autism don’t experience.

Those of you who follow this blog know I’m blind. I never see people yawn. I’m wondering now if I don’t yawn as much as other people do. I’ll tell you this, though … just writing about yawning is making me feel tired!


Comments may not reflect Easterseals' policies or positions.

  1. Rob Says:

    what age were the childern in both groups? What was the developmental age
    of the group with aumtism?
    what I’m getting at is that work on me and my 12yr old daughter but not my 15month son and when your dealing with someone with special needs it’s not known what and how they interpret things But this is already known. Soooo what did we learn?