In the Netherlands, 3.5% of the children (4 to 12 years; 52000 children) show behavior indicative of an autism spectrum disorder, and 3.7% of the children (1 to 12 years; 75000 children) show symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), as reported by their parents (CBS, 2016). Children who are diagnosed with these disorders can experience severe problems in social interaction and communication with others . Even though the social problems of children with autism and ADHD are highly salient, the important role of (interpersonal) coordination and synchronization remain understudied.
Coordination means how people attune their behavior (movements, speech, etc.) to that of other people and to things in the environment .
This coordination involves many different levels, such as coordinating many different body parts, perceiving, turn taking, gesturing, speaking, etc. A strong form of coordination is synchronization, where two people do the same thing at (approximately) the same time, like nodding or laughing together. Caregivers and professionals intuitively have long recognized the role of coordination and synchronization. Even before the official diagnosis, parents report problems in ‘connecting’ and attuning to their child with autism  and ADHD . Research on coordination and synchronization in the Netherlands is currently staying behind, even though studies in other countries have yielded promising results in the area of diagnosis and intervention .
The current project intends to fill this gap by bringing together a team of researchers and societal partners from diverse backgrounds. Together, we will work on increasing our fundamental understanding of coordination and synchronization in children with autism, ADHD, and typically developing children.
Guiding this project, we aim to discover opportunities for social development for children with autism and ADHD under right environmental circumstances.
We want to understand how these circumstances are formed by the coordination between children and the people around them, instead of being determined by the “deficits” which are traditionally associated with autism and ADHD. Moreover, we will develop open and accessible tools for these children, their parents, and professionals to guide and engage in the social rhythm of everyday life.