Clinical and Educational Implications of Imitation Deficits in Non-verbal Autistic Children
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Abstract The ability to imitate is a core deficit in autism spectrum disorders, and so it is of key interest to investigate this deficit in non-verbal children with autism. The current study aimed to design an imitation battery that was sensitive enough to identify the individual abilities in a group of non-verbal children with autism. Additionally, it aimed to investigate whether mean scores on imitation tasks were associated with performance on deferred imitation tasks as well as production and comprehension scores on The MacArthur Communicative Development Inventory (Words and Gestures). Experiment I involved the presentation of an imitation battery including gross motor, fine motor, oral-facial and vocal imitations as well as deferred imitations. Participants were given the instruction “Copy cat says do this” followed by the imitation. There were four practice trials, which were fully prompted before testing began. The participants were scored on a scale of one to six for each imitation with a mean score taken across the weeks for each imitation. Results indicated that participants may fall into one of two groups of abilities, with an association found between mean overall imitation score and deferred imitation ability. The second experiment was designed to add power to the first experiment through an increase in imitations and an additional participant. All imitations were new apart from the practice imitations (deferred imitations were excluded). The procedure and scoring remained the same as in experiment I, but testing was only carried out once. The results from experiment I were replicated and are discussed in relation to the clinical and educational implications that arise.