Twenty children with autism (mean age, 5 years) were recruited for the study from a school for children with autism. The children were randomly assigned to an imitation (n = 10) or contingently responsive (n = 10) interaction group based on a stratification table for gender and developmental and chronological age. The sessions consisted of four phases, with each phase lasting 3 minutes. In the first phase, the child walked into a room that was furnished with a sofa, a table, chairs, and two sets of identical toys. An adult was in the room sitting very still like a statue (first still-face condition). In the second phase, the adult either imitated the child or was contingently responsive to the child. In the third phase, the adult sat still again (second still-face condition), and in the fourth phase, the adult engaged in a spontaneous interaction. During the third phase (the second still-face condition), the children in the imitation group spent less time in gross motor activity and more time touching the adult, as if attempting to initiate an interaction. The contingency condition appeared to be a more effective way to facilitate a distal social behavior (attention), whereas the imitative condition was a more effective way to facilitate a proximal social behavior (touching).
Autismimitationdistal social behaviorproximal social behavior