Children use their sense of time to guess when the school bell will ring, when to pause while chatting with a friend, and how long it typically takes Dad to buy groceries. A good sense of time makes life less unpredictable, and may also smooth out some social interactions.
Most children get better at estimating time as they grow. They learn by averaging their experiences — for instance, previous trips to a supermarket or conversational pauses. Some children have an innate sense of time and rely less on this imprecise averaging tactic.
Children with autism are known to have trouble estimating time. A new study suggests a reason for the problem: their relative inability to rely on past experiences as a guide.
The findings, published 28 June in Scientific Reports, could help to explain why some people with autism have anxiety and social difficulties1.