Objective measurement of imitation problems in autism
Stewart, Hannah J
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Imitation is a complex behaviour used to allow faster learning of skills, including pivotal social cognitive processes such as language and gesture. Difficulties in imitating others have been broadly found within Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) populations. This paper discusses two possible theories explaining these deficits: self-other mapping theory, whereby imitation deficits in ASD have been proposed to restrict the ability to map relationships between social representations of others and themselves; and self-other comparison theory, whereby the individual must distinguish similarities and differences between themself and the other, which are then related to emotional and contextual differences learnt through experience in order to provide emotional context. Whilst imitation difficulties have been widely reported, the recordings of such difficulties have been done subjectively. This paper, however, approaches this well- known phenomenon objectively through the use of a clinical-kinematics assessment tool (C-Kat). Furthermore, this paper discusses different ways to precisely describe the imitative act to be copied and the performance of the imitator. This paper aimed to objectively investigate whether, when compared to typically developing peers, an imitative deficit was present in ASD adolescents (ASD n = 16; TD n = 24). Secondly, it aimed to determine whether such a deficit existed only for bodily imitation. Results showed a clear group difference and suggested a developmental delay in imitation ability within ASD rather than a deficit. Furthermore, results suggested a specific ASD difficulty in bodily imitation. However, following comparison of imitation stimuli and measures, the possibility is discussed that these results may be due to focusing on elements other than the critical movement information within the action to be imitated.