Children and their parents sought for time perception study


Psychologists at the University of York are asking families to take part in a study that may inform the development of new diagnostic tools and treatments for autism.

They are seeking to recruit children, between five and 15 years old, and their parents to take part in one of the first studies to investigate children’s perception of time. The researchers want to study children’s internal timing mechanisms – their understanding of the passage of time and how they estimate periods of time – and possible links to social and motor abilities.

It is the first part of a three-year project to examine ‘timing’ in children with autism spectrum condition as well as typically developing children. It may lead to further studies using advanced neuro-imaging to investigate the neural bases of timing and social problems.

The aim of the study is to develop better understanding of how internal timing mechanisms are linked to social and motor problems in both typically developing children and those with autism spectrum condition (ASD).

The project is led by Victoria Brattan and Dr Patrick Johnston, of the Department of Psychology at York. It also involves Dr Jason Tipples, of the Department of Psychology at University of Hull, and Consultant Child Psychiatrist and Honorary Lecturer at the Hull York Medical School, Dr Barry Wright, who is based at the Lime Trees Children’s Hospital in York.

The researchers are approaching parents and schools in York and North and East Yorkshire to take part in the project. Each of the children will be given a range of tests to gauge their perception of time. The tests will last 1 hour to 1hour 30 minutes. Their parents will also complete a short questionnaire.

Victoria Brattan said:

This is an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the underlying mechanisms of the social problems experienced by children with autism spectrum condition, and could potentially lead to improvements in diagnosis of the condition.


Dr Johnston added:

We need to include typically developing children in the study as well as those with ASD. This is a great way for kids and schools to engage with the scientific process and to contribute to medical research. The study will involve performing some short computer tasks, which most kids will enjoy.

The Centre for Chronic Diseases and Disorders (C2D2), based at the University of York, is funding the project. C2D2 is supported by a Wellcome Trust ‘Institutional Strategic Support Fund’ award, and the University of York.

Anyone interested in taking part in the study should contact Victoria Brattan on 01904 432954 or at


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