An overview of imitation skills in autism: implications for practice.Research findings suggest certain forms of imitation may be relatively more difficult for individuals with autism autism (ô`tĭzəm), developmental disability resulting from a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain. It is characterized by the abnormal development of communication skills, social skills, and reasoning. compared to typically developing peers. Findings of deficits in imitation skills have significant implications for intervention approaches given the critical nature of imitation to one's ability to learn from the environment. This article provides an overview of the research findings in behavioral and cognitive developmental psychology on imitation skills in autism. Implications of current findings for intervention are presented and recommendations for practice-relevant research are also made.
Implications for Practice
Autism spectrum disorders involve a complex array of learning and behavioral deficits and excesses. Although autism is characteristically heterogeneous, individuals with autism display these deficits and excesses in the following three areas: communication, social relationships, and behavioral perseveration perseveration /per·sev·er·a·tion/ (per-sev?er-a´shun) persistent repetition of the same verbal or motor response to varied stimuli; continuance of activity after cessation of the causative stimulus. and rigidity. The heterogeneity het·er·o·ge·ne·i·ty
The quality or state of being heterogeneous.
the state of being heterogeneous. of autism allows for few conclusive statements about learning styles of individuals with autism. The learning characteristics that have been identified include problems with perseverative responding (e.g. position preferences), overselective responding, and poor skill generalization gen·er·al·i·za·tion
1. The act or an instance of generalizing.
2. A principle, a statement, or an idea having general application. .
Recent research in cognitive developmental and neuropsycholgy suggests that another possible characteristic learning deficit in individuals with autism may include imitation. Much of the research on imitation deficits in individuals with autism is drawn from between-group designs comparing the skills of primarily children with autism to children matched on verbal or non-verbal mental age. In various studies, children with autism underperform on various imitation tasks compared to the control groups (Heimann, et al., 1992; Ohta, 1987; Jones & Prior, 1985; Hammes & Langdell, 1981). However, these findings appear to be in contradiction with clinical observations of excessive imitative im·i·ta·tive
1. Of or involving imitation.
2. Not original; derivative.
3. Tending to imitate.
4. Onomatopoeic. ability (e.g. echolalia echolalia /echo·la·lia/ (ek?o-la´le-ah) stereotyped repetition of another person's words and phrases.
1. ) and findings from applied behavior analytic research indicating success in teaching imitation to children with autism.
Given the critical nature of imitation to learning, understanding the nature of imitation skills in individuals with autism is necessary to developing effective early intervention ear·ly intervention
n. Abbr. EI
A process of assessment and therapy provided to children, especially those younger than age 6, to facilitate normal cognitive and emotional development and to prevent developmental disability or delay. and instructional practices. This article will highlight relevant research and practices on imitation skills in individuals with autism. Behavioral and cognitive developmental disciplines have been the most prolific in the study of imitation skills in individuals with autism. As such this article will focus primarily on the contributions of these disciplines.
Our fairly limited understanding of the nature and impact of deficient imitation skills in children with autism are in part due to disparate theoretical and methodological approaches between behavioral and cognitive developmental research. Cognitive developmental theories view imitation as a keystone key·stone
1. Architecture The central wedge-shaped stone of an arch that locks its parts together. Also called headstone.
2. The central supporting element of a whole. skill representing a child's understanding of the relationship between himself and the environment. Imitation represents a child's first understanding of person-environment relationships within cognitive developmental theories. Thus, imitation is thought to allow for the development of other critical person-environment relationships such as communication and social skills.
While the focus of cognitive theories on hypothetical constructs such as "theory of mind" are less useful, studies of typical and atypical atypical /atyp·i·cal/ (-i-k'l) irregular; not conformable to the type; in microbiology, applied specifically to strains of unusual type.
adj. development of imitation in autism is an important contribution of this approach. The methods employed in cognitive developmental research typically evaluate whether the imitation skills of children with autism are typical for their intellectual level. Thus, between-group designs are almost exclusively used by cognitive developmental researchers matching control and experimental groups on standardized test variable reflecting either verbal or non-verbal mental age.
Imitation in behavior theory Behavior theory can refer to:
adj. and cognitive behavioral terms. Kymissis & Poulson (1990) provided one of the most comprehensive reviews of the history of imitation research from a learning theory perspective. Conclusions from Kymissis & Poulson (1990) suggest that Baer & Deguchi's (1985) operant conceptualization con·cep·tu·al·ize
v. con·cep·tu·al·ized, con·cep·tu·al·iz·ing, con·cep·tu·al·iz·es
To form a concept or concepts of, and especially to interpret in a conceptual way: of imitation and generalized imitation may be the most useful in accounting for the development of complex imitative behavior in humans. Albert Bandura's research on imitation (1969, 1977) provided groundwork for contemporary social learning perspectives on imitation and observational learning. In behavioral investigations of imitation in children with autism, emphasis is often placed on factors influencing skill acquisition including teaching factors such as presentation mode and model type. Independent variables evaluated in behavioral analytic literature typically include response class generalization, peer modeling, and video modeling and are investigated within single-subject designs. The focus of behavioral research in autism is primarily on factors influencing instruction.
Different disciplines also have different vocabularies for describing imitation. Unfortunately, the distinctions between these terms have not been presented consistently within or across disciplines. Behavioral theorists have distinguished between many types of imitative behavior including conditioned reflexes (Kysmiss & Poulson, 1990), matched dependent behavior vs. copying (Miller & Dollard, 1947), generalized imitation (Baer & Deguchi, 1985), and modeling vs. vicarious vicarious /vi·car·i·ous/ (vi-kar´e-us)
1. acting in the place of another or of something else.
2. occurring at an abnormal site.
1. learning (Bandura ban`dur´a
n. 1. A traditional Ukrainian stringed musical instrument shaped like a lute, having many strings. , 1977).
Cognitive developmental theorists also distinguish between types of imitative behavior, distinguishing between imitation, emulation, mimicry mimicry, in biology, the advantageous resemblance of one species to another, often unrelated, species or to a feature of its own environment. (When the latter results from pigmentation it is classed as protective coloration. , and social facilitation Social facilitation is the tendency for people to be aroused into better performance on simple tasks (or tasks at which they are expert) when under the eye of others, rather than while they are alone. (Roeyers, Van Oost, & Bothuyne, 1998). Imitation refers to the reproduction of a model's actions in topography and function for novel actions only. It is distinguished from mimicry in which the reproduction of the action occurs outside of the functional context used by the model and from emulation in which a different topographical response is used to obtain the same functional goal as the model. Finally, facilitation Facilitation
The process of providing a market for a security. Normally, this refers to bids and offers made for large blocks of securities, such as those traded by institutions. is used to refer to reproduction of an action that was already within the child's repertoire. Given the lack of congruence con·gru·ence
a. Agreement, harmony, conformity, or correspondence.
b. An instance of this: "What an extraordinary congruence of genius and era" between the vocabularies for distinguishing between types of imitative behavior, the remainder of this article will use the term "imitation" to refer to all categories of actions in which reproduction of a model's behavior is involved.
Cognitive Developmental Findings
As indicated above, cognitive developmental research on imitation in autism primarily focuses on the presence or absence of an autism-specific imitation deficit. Early research in this field generally used Piagetian models of sensorimotor sensorimotor /sen·so·ri·mo·tor/ (sen?sor-e-mo´ter) both sensory and motor.
Of, relating to, or combining the functions of the sensory and motor activities. development and compared children with autism to mental-age matched peers on a series of sensorimotor tasks (Charman & Baron-Cohen, 1994; Dawson & Adams, 1984). DeMyer, et al. (1972) were among the first to investigate imitation skills in autism. In the experiment, 12 children with autism and early childhood schizophrenia were compared to a control group of children with mental retardation mental retardation, below average level of intellectual functioning, usually defined by an IQ of below 70 to 75, combined with limitations in the skills necessary for daily living. . The groups were evaluated on a variety of body movement (i.e. gestural) and object manipulation imitation tasks. Children with autism exhibited significantly less imitation overall than children in the control group and had particular difficulty with gestural imitation.
DeMyer, et al.'s (1972) initial research generated subsequent studies supportive of the general findings of imitation deficits in autism (Heimann, Ullstadius, Dahlgren, & Gillberg; 1992; Ohta, 1987; Jones & Prior, 1985; Hammes & Langdell, 1981). The few studies (Charman & Baron-Cohen, 1994; Morgan, et al., 1989) that did not find group differences on imitation tasks may have encountered ceiling effects as evidenced by Charman & Baron-Cohen (1994) use of task designed for infants with a group of relatively high functioning children and adolescents with autism.
In addition to the presence or absence of an imitation deficit in autism, another debate in the autism literature is whether different task types have differential influences on performance. This research line arose out of the cognitive developmental research on imitation in typically developing infants and children in which distinctions are often made between domains of imitation. In typical development, imitation of skills varies depending upon the domain. In general, imitations using objects appear before gestural imitations. Symbolic imitations appear around 1-2 years, in congruence with neo-Piagetian theory.
A substantial amount of research supports the finding that imitation in children with autism may be at least partially controlled by the type of task that is presented. Hertzig, et al. (1989) found low-functioning autistic autistic /au·tis·tic/ (aw-tis´tik) characterized by or pertaining to autism. subjects performed worse on sensorimotor and symbolic tasks than an MR and typical preschool controls. Hammes & Langdell (1981) found that subjects with autism had deficits in symbolic imitations compared to children with mental retardation, but performed equivalently on simple sensorimotor imitations using objects. Heimann, Ullstadius, Dahlgren, & Gillberg (1992) also found that level of imitation in children with autism varied with the domain-membership of the task presented. While children with autism performed worse on all tasks than controls, they imitated object manipulation tasks and vocal imitation tasks most frequently. Motor tasks were the least frequently imitated categories for children with autism. Many additional studies confirmed the above findings of a relative deficit in gestural imitation in children with autism. (Stone, Ousley, & Littleford, 1997; Heimann, Ullstadius, Dahlgren, & Gillberg, 199w; Soorya & Romanczyk, 2000).
In addition to the parameters of gestural vs. object manipulation tasks, cognitive developmental studies have also evaluated parameters such as the familiar vs. unfamiliar actions and sequential vs. static actions. Roeyers, et al. (1998) found that young children with autism performed worse than children with mental retardation matched on either mental age or chronological age chron·o·log·i·cal age
n. Abbr. CA
The number of years a person has lived, used especially in psychometrics as a standard against which certain variables, such as behavior and intelligence, are measured. . Children with autism performed worse than the control group on all tasks with, the largest between group differences found for novel gestural tasks. The results of this study suggest the novelty of the task may influence imitation performance, at least with young children with autism. The results of Roeyers, et al. (1998) are supported by previous findings by Dawson & Adams (1984) who found that children with autism had an intact ability to imitate familiar, learned gestures. The length and sequential nature of tasks was evaluated by Libby, Powell, Messer, & Jordan (1997). Children with autism unexpectedly performed better than children with Down syndrome Down syndrome, congenital disorder characterized by mild to severe mental retardation, slow physical development, and characteristic physical features. Down syndrome affects about 1 in every 730 live births and occurs in all populations equally. and typically developing children on symbolic imitation tasks involving one action. However, children with autism were found to have more difficulty than controls on tasks with multiple components.
Behavioral research on imitation skills in individuals with autism has the distinction of focusing on factors influencing learning. Several parameters that influence imitation in individuals with autism have been identified through behavioral research, including reinforcement, response class, type of model, and presentation mode.
Similar to cognitive research on the influence of task type on performance, Young, Krantz Krantz is the name of two persons:
1. to spread throughout the body, as when local disease becomes systemic.
2. to form a general principle; to reason inductively. within the toy play response class. Imitation also did not generalize across response classes. The authors suggest that toy play behavior may be the most difficult of the three response classes due to perseverative and self-stimulatory behavior observed that could have interfered with imitation. A similar finding of limited generalization across response classes also found by Neef, Shafer, Egel, Cataldo and Parrish (1983). The same finding is shown when mothers were models for their typically developing infants. That is, imitation was shown to generalize within the response classes, but not across response classes (Poulson, Kyparissos, Andreatos, Kymissis, & Parnes, 2002).
There is a substantial behavior analytic literature that has assessed imitation using different types of models (peer and adult) for teaching children with autism. Ihrig and Wolchik (1988) conducted a study to compare adult versus peer models in teaching children with autism. They found that both models resulted in equivalent learning. In addition, high levels of generalization and maintenance of imitative behaviors were shown for children in both conditions (adult or peer).
Peer modeling has been shown to facilitate the acquisition of several types of behaviors, including motor, communication and social skills (Carr & Darcy, 1990; Peck, Apollini, Cooke, & Braver, 1978) for children with autism. Variables contributing to the successful modeling of peer behavior include the close physical proximity of the peer (Charlop, Schriebman & Tryon, 1983; Coleman & Stedman 1974), the prompting of specific behaviors by the adult (Peck et. al., 1978) or by the peer (Carr & Darcy, 1990) and using a progressive time delay procedure (Venn et. al., 1993). Using typical children as peer models for autistic children in the classroom environment to address academic related skills such as following directions and attention to task was shown to increase such skills. (Lanquetot, 1989). Peer modeling has also been shown to be effective with the teaching of functional skills to children with autism (Pepperberg & Sherman, 2000).
Peer modeling has also been shown to facilitate stimulus generalization Noun 1. stimulus generalization - (psychology) transfer of a response learned to one stimulus to a similar stimulus
stimulus generalisation, generalisation, generalization , response generalization, and improved social interactions. For example, Carr & Darcy (1990) suggest that using multiple objects and actions (stimuli) during training may facilitate generality of responses to other settings. Venn et. al.(1993), using an errorless learning Errorless learning
Errorless learning is a procedure introduced by Herbert Terrace (1963) which allows discrimination learning to occur with few or even with no responses to the negative stimulus (abbreviated S-). approach, showing that a lower rate of errors is observed in the acquisition of novel behaviors following the peer modeling procedure. Recently, research has examined videotaped modeling as an alternative mode of presentation. Video modeling has been used to successfully teach conversational skills (Charlop & Milstein, 1989), purchasing skills (Haring, et al, 1987), and daily living skills (Shipley-Benamou, Lutzker, & Taubman, 2002) to individuals with autism. For example, results from Haring et al (1987) study of instruction in purchasing skills in young adults with autism indicated a significant increase in both purchasing behaviors and social behaviors after implementation of the videotape training phase. While video modeling and peer modeling have shown positive effects in many studies, it remains to be seen whether the modeling procedures have differential impact compared to their counterparts (e.g. live modeling, adult modeling).
Because of the importance of imitation to typical development of language, social, and cognitive skills, imitation is often targeted early in intervention plans and continues to be addressed throughout the child's treatment. Treatments for autism based on either behavioral or cognitive developmental models emphasize imitation skills particularly with young children with autism. The methods and treatments used within cognitive developmental approaches remain to be empirically validated. Applied behavior analysis Some of the information in this article may not be verified by . It should be checked for inaccuracies and modified to cite reliable sources.
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) (ABA) as an intervention approach for children with autism is strongly recommended (New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of State Department of Health, 1999). As indicated in the review above, ABA research typically focuses on issues influencing learning, this review of instructional methods of teaching imitation will focus primarily on behavioral approaches.
There are a variety of behavioral treatment approaches aimed at treating children with autism Including discrete trail teaching, verbal behavior, natural language procedures, incidental teaching, errorless learning, etc. At their core, all such procedures use basic ABA procedures such as stimulus control Stimulus control
We refer to stimulus control when a discriminative stimulus changes the probability of a behavior (operant response). The discriminative stimulus comes to control behavior when it predicts something about the consequences of that behavior. , prompts, modeling, shaping, and reinforcement to teach imitation skills, and regardless of the specific approach chosen, all procedures consider imitation skills to be near-essential to new learning. In discrete trial teaching, skills are broken into small steps and each step is systematically taught using strategies derived from basic principles of behavior. Imitation skills are typically among the first to be taught in a discrete trial program because they are often considered to be prerequisite abilities for learning other skills. For example, motor imitation (clapping, standing, rolling a car) might be taught so that the child can later be taught to follow the verbal instructions of a teacher or parent. Similarly, teaching verbal imitation (say "cookie") can aid in later teaching of spontaneous speech skills. Once basic imitation skills are established, they can be used as building blocks for more complex skills. Discrete trial procedures typically makes generous use of prompting procedures in order to increase the likelihood that the child will respond correctly and receive subsequent reinforcement. Prompts that require imitation skills include verbal directions ("say 'I want car'") and modeled prompts (demonstrating how to use a toy and then asking the child to imitate the toy play behavior). Similarly, imitation skills are part of the basis of the Verbal Behavior approach to treatment. This approach is based on Skinner's conceptualization of language as similar to other types of learned behavior. Verbal behavior approaches to teaching language to children with autism emphasize teaching language in its many functional components. That is, language is perceived as having many functions, including to alter one's environment (manding), to respond to sensory stimuli (tacting), and verbal behavior in response to another person's verbal behavior (intraverbals). Imitation is used throughout the teaching of mands, tacts, and intraverbals primarily in form of verbal models to engage in the correct form of speech to complete the target function.
Imitation also plays an important role in naturalistic nat·u·ral·is·tic
1. Imitating or producing the effect or appearance of nature.
2. Of or in accordance with the doctrines of naturalism. teaching procedures such Pivotal Response Training (Koegel & Schreibman, 1996) and incidental teaching. The goal of Pivotal Response Training is to teach pivotal skills that affect a broad range of functions. Pivotal skills include responsivity to multiple cues, motivation, and self-management (Stahmer 1999). The approach capitalizes on the child's motivation by using strategies such as child choice and turn taking to teach new skills. For example, a child might be offered a choice between a two toys and might then be prompted to imitate the label of the approached toy. Similarly. incidental teaching uses child initiated interactions as opportunities to prompt the child to make appropriate responses. Imitation is a critical skill needed to respond to many prompts. For example, a child who begins to approach a stuffed animal
A stuffed animal is toy animal stuffed with straw, beans, cotton or other similar materials. Some stuffed animals are very old – home made cloth dolls stuffed with straw go back to at least the may be prompted to say "dog" in order to gain access to the toy.
Communication instruction is a critical component of most autism treatment programs. Most children with autism display prominent delays in these areas and those that are not delayed in acquiring language typically have difficulty with its pragmatic use. Both Skinner and Bandura theorized that children learn language through processes of reinforcement and extinction. That is, speech is acquired through reinforced imitation of desired adult speech and extinction of undesirable sounds for a given culture. While speech instruction is often seen as the domain of speech and language therapists, ABA trained individuals across all disciplines use behavioral theories of language acquisition to facilitate communication skills in both verbal and nonverbal non·ver·bal
1. Being other than verbal; not involving words: nonverbal communication.
2. Involving little use of language: a nonverbal intelligence test. domains.
An example of a behavioral language training approach is demonstrated in a study by Charlop and colleagues (1985). The authors demonstrated that children with autism could be taught to make spontaneous verbal responses through an imitation promoting procedure (Charlop, Shreibman, Thibodeau, 1985). In this study, the experimenter initially presented the child with a visual stimulus such as a cookie and modeled the response, "I want cookie." The verbal model was slowly delayed to encourage a spontaneous response from the child. Children participating in this study learned to spontaneously request the items taught using this imitation procedure. Further, the spontaneous speech generalized from the teaching situation to other people, places and stimuli. In a different study, the authors used both video modeling and in vivo modeling with reinforcement training to teach two similar receptive and expressive language. Results indicated that even though modeling improved performance on both receptive and expressive tasks, no generalization to other receptive and expressive tasks was observed (Charlop-Christy, Le, & Freeman, 2000).
Imitation has also been successfully used to teach gestural communication (Buffington, Krantz, McClannahan, & Poulson, (1998). Children with autism often show deficits in their use of communicative gestures. Buffington and colleagues taught children to use attentional (e.g raising one's hand), affective affective /af·fec·tive/ (ah-fek´tiv) pertaining to affect.
1. Concerned with or arousing feelings or emotions; emotional.
2. (e.g. shaking one's head), and referential (e.g. gesturing 'tiny') gestures by modeling the correct gesture following incorrect responses and then providing the child with the opportunity to correct his or her response. The authors also used physical prompts along with verbal and token reinforcement of correct responses to teach the gestures. Children in this study learned to used the gestures being taught and generalized these responses to new stimuli and settings.
Social Skills Instruction
In addition to building communication skills, most or all intervention programs focus on development of socialization socialization /so·cial·iza·tion/ (so?shal-i-za´shun) the process by which society integrates the individual and the individual learns to behave in socially acceptable ways.
n. . Social deficits are considered to be a defining characteristic of autism. Not surprisingly, social skills are also among the most difficult skills to teach. Social deficits in this population include deficits in social use of language, poor recognition and response to emotions, deficient peer interactions, and more. One reason that social skills are difficult to teach is that typically developing children rarely require direct instruction to acquire these skills; they learn through imitation of the social mores of adults in their play (e.g. playing store or having a tea party) and in their interactions with others (e.g. a very young child may imitate the script of social greetings and farewells).
Unlike typically developing children, children with autism are often unable to acquire social skills through observational learning alone. For example, children with autism who are placed in a class with typically developing peers will typically not acquire needed skills simply by watching and imitating these peers. Children with autism often require direct instructions, modeling, role-playing, practice and reinforcement in order to acquire new social skills.
While many programs for social skills instruction are available, little systematic research on effective instructional practices is available. Buggey, Toombs, Gardener, and Cervetti (1999) found increased appropriate play interactions when using video samples of the participants themselves as their own models. Buggey and collegues (1999) spliced together videotapes of children with autism appropriately responding to questions. Participants who viewed this tape almost doubled their rates of appropriate responding to the target questions during a subsequent play session (Buggey, Toombs, Gardener & Cervetti, 1999).
The review above reflects the current state of knowledge about imitation skills in individuals with autism. Cognitive developmental research indicates that children with autism have deficits in imitation that cannot be better accounted for by intellectual status. These deficits are most severe in the domains of gestural and motor imitation (Stone, et al., 1997). Behavioral studies have revealed a wealth of information regarding the influence of many parameters of instruction. The Young et al. (1994) study suggests that that imitation must be taught within response classes for individuals with autism (e.g. toy play should be taught separately from motor imitation). Various studies of peer modeling suggest that peer modeling can be a cost effective tool for teaching communication and social skills (e.g. Carr & Darcy, 1990). Important variables in using peer models include prompting, progressive time-delays, and the physical proximity of the peer.
Despite the relative abundance of information on the imitative skills of individuals with autism, much remains to be explored given the primacy of imitation to learning from one's environment. Differences in imitation performance between subgroups of children with autism (e.g. high vs. low functioning), developmental changes across childhood, observational learning, differences between spontaneous vs. prompted imitation, and differences between immediate and deferred imitation in autism have not received attention in the literature to date.
In addition, assessments of imitation in individuals with autism or typically developing children are also limited. Elements of various standardized infant development tests such as the Bayley Scale of Infant Development are often used. Standardized tests of developmental dyspraxia dyspraxia /dys·prax·ia/ (dis-prak´se-ah) partial loss of ability to perform coordinated acts.
Impairment of the ability to execute purposeful, voluntary movement. , which have limited construct validity construct validity,
n the degree to which an experimentally-determined definition matches the theoretical definition. , have also been used. However, assessments that incorporate contemporary research findings for children across the developmental spectrum and allow for progress monitoring are not available. These types of assessments are clearly needed to improve instructional methods in imitation. Additional research investigating information that can be utilized in interventions is also needed. An integration of the findings and methods across the cognitive developmental and behavioral research would be a first step in aiding intervention approaches. While it may seem as if cognitive developmental research may have little to offer behavioral intervention behavioral intervention Behavior modification, behavior 'mod', behavioral therapy, behaviorism Psychiatry The use of operant conditioning models, ie positive and negative reinforcement, to modify undesired behaviors–eg, anxiety. approaches, some researchers have produced findings that could be utilized given better cross-discipline communication. For example, Dawson & Galpert (1990) evaluated outcomes when parents imitated their child with autism's social gaze and play. The study found positive correlations between parental imitation and improved social gaze and play behaviors. However, adult imitation of child behavior is not systematically used within empirically supported treatments for autism (i.e. ABA). ABA methods could also be used to likely improve the effectiveness of the findings from cognitive developmental research given the emphasis of motivational variables, which is often not addressed within cognitive developmental studies.
A significant problem in the behavior analytic literature is the lack of large N studies that evaluate specific characteristics of the participants such as age, intellectual ability, social interactiveness, presence/absence of verbal speech, etc. The focus on developmental changes and large group investigations of the cognitive developmental field could be utilized to better address the current limitation of the behavioral research on imitation in children with autism.
With the limitations above in mind, some recommendations for practice can be made based on the current findings. Table 1 below presents the authors' recommendations for effective instruction of imitation in individuals with autism based on the current research across disciplines. The table is organized by parameters of imitation primarily affecting instruction of basic skills. Research on instruction on higher level tasks such as social skills and complex procedural tasks is limited. Future expansion and integration of research in this field will hopefully address the many parameters that are absent from following list.
Bandura, A. (1969). Principles of Behavior Modification behavior modification
1. The use of basic learning techniques, such as conditioning, biofeedback, reinforcement, or aversion therapy, to teach simple skills or alter undesirable behavior.
2. See behavior therapy. . Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.: New York.
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Buggey, T., Toombs, K., Gardener, P., Cervetti, M. (1999). Training responding behaviors in students with autism: Using videotaped self-modeling. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 1, 205-214.
Buffington, D.M., Krantz, P.J., McClannahan, L.E. & Poulson, C.L. (1998). Procedures for teaching appropriate gestural communication skills to children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 28, 535-544.
Buggey, T., Toombs, K., Gardener, P., & Cervetti, M. (1999). Training responding behaviors in students with autism: Using videotaped self-modeling. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 1, 205-214.
Carr, E.G. & Darcy, M. (1990). Setting generality of peer modeling in children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 20(1), 45-59
Charlop-Christy, M.H., Le, L, & Freeman, K.A. (2000). A comparison of video modeling with in-vivo modeling for teaching children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30, 537-552.
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Charman, T. & Baron-Cohen, S. (1994). Another look at imitation in autism. Development and Psychopathology psychopathology /psy·cho·pa·thol·o·gy/ (-pah-thol´ah-je)
1. the branch of medicine dealing with the causes and processes of mental disorders.
2. abnormal, maladaptive behavior or mental activity. , 6, 403-413.
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Coleman, S.L. & Stedman, J. M. (1974). Use of a peer model in language training in an echolalic child. Journal of Behavior Therapy behavior therapy or behavior modification, in psychology, treatment of human behavioral disorders through the reinforcement of acceptable behavior and suppression of undesirable behavior. and Experimental Psychiatry, 5, 275-279.
Dawson, G. & Adams, A. (1984). Imitation and social responsiveness in mute autistic children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 12(2), 209-226.
Dawson, G. & Galpert, L. (1990). Mothers' use of imitative play for facilitating social responsiveness and toy play in young autistic children. Development and Psychopathology, 2, 151-162.
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Haring, T.G., Kennedy, C. H., Adam, M.J., & Pitts-Conway, V. (1987). Teaching generalization of purchasing skills across community settings to autistic youth using videotape modeling. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 20, 89-96.
Heimann, M., Ullstadius, E., Dahlgren, SO. & Gillberg C. (1992). Imitation in Autism: A preliminary research note. Behavioural Neurology neurology (nrŏl`əjē, ny–), study of the morphology, physiology, and pathology of the human nervous system. , 5, 219-227
Hertzig, M.E., Snow, M.E., Sherman, M. (1989). Affect and cognition cognition
Act or process of knowing. Cognition includes every mental process that may be described as an experience of knowing (including perceiving, recognizing, conceiving, and reasoning), as distinguished from an experience of feeling or of willing. in autism. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry A branch of psychiatry that specialises in work with children, teenagers, and their families. History
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Ihrig, K. & Wolchik, S.A. (1988). Peer versus adult models and autistic children's learning: Acquisition, generalization, and maintenance. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 18, 67-79.
Jones, V. & Prior, M. (1985). Motor imitation abilities and neurological neurological, neurologic
pertaining to or emanating from the nervous system or from neurology.
evaluation of the health status of a patient with a nervous system disorder or dysfunction. signs in autistic children. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 15(1), 37-46.
Koegel, R. L. & Schreibman, L. (1996). Training for parents of children with autism: Pivotal responses and generalization. In P.S. Jensen & E. Hibbs (Eds.). Psychosocial psychosocial /psy·cho·so·cial/ (si?ko-so´shul) pertaining to or involving both psychic and social aspects.
Involving aspects of both social and psychological behavior. treatment research with children and adolescents. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
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Questions or comments about this article are welcome to be emailed to Latha V. Soorya, M.A., BCBA BCBA Board Certified Behavior Analyst
BCBA Baltimore County Bar Association (Towson, MD)
BCBA Building Code Board of Appeals
BCBA Barnstable County Beekeepers Association (Massachusetts, USA) at firstname.lastname@example.org or Raymond G. Romanczyk, Ph.D. at email@example.com. Written communication may be sent to The Institute for Child Development, P.O. Box 6000, State University of N.Y. at Binghamton, Binghamton, N.Y. 13902-6000
Latha V. Soorya, M.A., BCBA
Laura M. Arnstein, M.A., BCBA
Jennifer Gillis, M.A. BCABA
and Raymond G. Romanczyk, Ph.D., BCBA
State University of New York at Binghamton
Imitation Research Finding(s) Clinical Implication parameters Task type Motor imitations are more Instructional programs difficult than object imi- should explicitly teach mo- tation (Stone, et al., tor,object, vocal, and sym- 1997), but object imita- bolic imitation separately tion may display poorer to promote generalized generalization (Young, et imitation in each category. al., 1994). Motor imitation may require additional focus given re- lative difficulty in per- formance of this task. Child vs. Adult imitation of child Incidental and natural adult behavior found to promote language approaches may be directed increased toy play (Dawson useful in teaching genera- & Galpert, 1990). lized imitation for ob- jects. Familiarity Imitation of familiar Performance of gestures gestures are intact, but such as waving may not children with autism have generalize to learning no- a relative difficulty with vel gestures such as commu- novel gestures (Dawson & nicative signs. Adams, 1984). Task Length Imitation of single-compo- Instructional programs may nent symbolic actions benefit from developing intact, but multi-compo- protocols for teaching imi- nent actions are more tation from simple to difficult (Libby, et al., complex actions. 1997). Model type Peer modeling is an effec- Research in typical deve- tive method of teaching lopment suggests modeling skills, but increased is facilitated by factors effectiveness of peers such as model similarity. compared to adults has not Findings suggest peer mode- been demonstrated in au- ling particularly for in- tism (Ihrig & Wolchick, creasing social contact may 1988). be useful, but not neces- sary. Presentation Video modeling has been Video modeling has practi- mode effectively used to teach cal benefits in terms of many skills, but its re- portability, but must be lative effectiveness com- weighed with costs such as pared to in-vivo modeling production time and has not been demonstrated expense. (e.g. Charlop & Milstein, 1989).