Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 41, Issue 8, pp 983–996 | Cite as

Slowing Down the Presentation of Facial and Body Movements Enhances Imitation Performance in Children with Severe Autism

  • France LainéEmail author
  • Stéphane Rauzy
  • Carole Tardif
  • Bruno GepnerEmail author
Original Paper


Imitation deficits observed among individuals with autism could be partly explained by the excessive speed of biological movements to be perceived and then reproduced. Along with this assumption, slowing down the speed of presentation of these movements might improve their imitative performances. To test this hypothesis, 19 children with autism, 37 typically-developing children and 17 children with Down syndrome were asked to reproduce facial and body movements presented on a computer at a normal/ecological and two slowed down speeds. Our main result showed that a subgroup of individuals with severe autism better reproduced the movements when presented slowly than at the ecological speed. This finding opens a new window for comprehension and rehabilitation of perceptual and imitative deficits in autism.


Autism Perception Imitation Biological motion Speed of information Slowing down communication 



This research was partially supported by a grant from the multidisciplinary “Cognition et Traitement de l’Information” CNRS program and by an Orange Foundation grant to France Lainé for her PhD in psychology. We would like to thank the MA psychology students Hélène Teyssèdre, Camille DeMaupéou, Akselle DiBattista and Anne-Laurie NDjikessi for their help with the testing and data analysis. We are also grateful to Philippe Blache, director of the “Laboratoire Parole et Langage”, for his scientific contribution, and to Pr. Jacob A. Burack, Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology, McGill University, for his helpful comments on the manuscript.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre PsyCLE (Centre de Recherche en Psychologie de la Connaissance, du Langage et des Emotions), EA 3273Université de ProvenceAix-en-ProvenceFrance
  2. 2.“Laboratoire Parole et Langage”, CNRS UMR 6057Université de ProvenceAix-en-ProvenceFrance
  3. 3.Fédération Autisme Vie EntièreHôpital MontperrinAix-en-ProvenceFrance
  4. 4.Department of Educational and Counseling PsychologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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