, Volume 25, Issue 6, pp 475-485

Motor Imitation in Young Children with Autism: What's the Object?

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Abstract

Two studies investigated the nature of motor imitation in young children with autism. Study 1 compared different types of motor imitation in 18 autistic children, 18 children with developmental delay, and 18 normally developing children. Results revealed weaker imitation skills for the autistic group, though all groups demonstrated a similar pattern of performance across different imitation domains. Imitation of body movements was more difficult than imitation of actions with objects, and imitation of nonmeaningful actions was more difficult than imitation of meaningful actions. Study 2 investigated concurrent and predictive relations between imitation and other developmental skills within a sample of 26 two-year-old children with autism. Results suggested that imitation of body movements and imitation of actions with objects represent independent dimensions. Imitation of body movements was concurrently and predictively associated with expressive language skills, and imitation of actions with objects was concurrently associated with play skills. Improvements in both motor imitation domains occurred over a 1-year period.