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Exploring the Relationship Between Gestural Recognition and Imitation: Evidence of Dyspraxia in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Abstract

In this study, the relationship between gesture recognition and imitation was explored. Nineteen individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) were compared to a control group of 23 typically developing children on their ability to imitate and recognize three gesture types (transitive, intransitive, and pantomimes). The ASD group performed more poorly than controls on all tasks of recognition and imitation. Higher performance on tests of working memory was associated with increased odds of successful imitation in both groups. Group differences remained even when working memory was statistically controlled for. An association was revealed in the ASD group between pantomime recognition and imitation but a similar association was not identified for intransitive gestures suggesting that recognition alone is not sufficient for imitation success.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. One approach that has been used to test gesture recognition included a matching task requiring the participant to view a picture of a person making an action with the hand missing and choosing a picture of a hand in the best configuration to match the action (Hamilton et al. 2007; Rothi et al. 1991). Others, have measured gesture recognition by administering a task requiring participants to discriminate correctly from incorrectly executed gestures (Buxbaum et al. 2005; Cubelli et al. 2000).

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Correspondence to Heidi Stieglitz Ham.

Appendices

Appendix 1: Stimuli Used for Imitation and Recognition Tasks

Stimuli for Gesture Imitation

Object Use: hairbrush (example: locker combination lock, computer mouse; bell, nailbrush; rolling pin; tape measure; calculator; instrument (recorder, hole punch; guitar pick; bottle; spatula; binocular; camera; remote control; ball; paper airplane; spoon; keyboard; baseball cap.

Pantomimes: camera (example): knife; wooden spoon; salt shaker; toothbrush; paper; rain hood; pitcher; bow and arrow; shovel; rope; peeler; weight; hat; key; headphones; book; snowball; yoyo; cup; key; soap.

Intransitive Gestures: peace sign (example); money; all done; too loud; look; listen; read; swatting a fly; crazy; stop; pay; choke; don’t look; blow a kiss; throw a punch; let’s go; roll the dice; hands up; you; cold; hot.

Stimuli for Gesture Recognition

Object Use: dialing phone (example) using a toothbrush as a screwdriver; paper airplane; putting on a hat that covers eyes; hairbrush; brushing hair with eye glasses; playing tennis with a hammer; scissors; brushing teeth with hairbrush; hammering with a screwdriver; spoon; cell phone; using PS2 control on the ear; keyboard; playing tennis with cell phone; remote control; brushing hair with drumstick; headphones; gameboy; playing guitar with tennis racket; ball.

Pantomimes: zipper (example); bringing a spoon to nose instead of mouth; ring; phone; opening can and pouring on head; camera; key; glass; dipping bubble wand and blowing bubbles away from wand; headphones; bringing cup to cheek; using a toothbrush to brush eye; yo-yo; peeling banana upside down; book; typing on a keyboard using incorrect orientation; snowball; writing with a pen with wrist turned; putting chapstick on forehead; backpack; dialing a phone and putting on head.

Intransitive Gestures: whisper (example); opening and closing hand; come here; be quiet; bringing two fists together; moving fingers up and down with palm backwards; angry; rotating fist; peace; side of hand on neck; sliding hand away from body; eat; index finger on ear; palm forward, fingers moving down; raising hand; round hand on neck; shucks; open; middle finger and thumb in circle; embarrassed; walk.

Appendix 2: Coding System for Imitation Tasks

Hand error: An error was recorded if the configuration of hand and fingers was not accurate or the wrist angle was incorrect. This code also encompassed hand grip; an error would be recorded, for example, if the (real or imaginary) object was held incorrectly.

Arm posture/trajectory error: This code encompassed errors of the arm. An error was recorded if the arm was at the wrong angle, if movement was in the incorrect plane (e.g., side to side instead of back and forth), or if the trajectory was inappropriate (e.g., circular instead of linear).

Amplitude error: An amplitude error was recorded if there was an error related to the size of the movement. For example, a movement was either too big or too small. (e.g., overshooting or undershooting a target).

Timing error: Timing errors were errors related to the speed or iteration of movement; for example, when the numbers of individual movements were inappropriate to the gesture (e.g., hammering only one time).

Reversal error: Copying a gesture in the perspective from which it was seen (e.g., palm facing the participant if that is the view observed).

Body part as object error: Use of a body part for the intended action (i.e., using their finger as a pen).

Distance error: Gesture performed at the incorrect distance from the target (e.g., shaking salt shaker at the level of the shoulder.

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Stieglitz Ham, H., Bartolo, A., Corley, M. et al. Exploring the Relationship Between Gestural Recognition and Imitation: Evidence of Dyspraxia in Autism Spectrum Disorders. J Autism Dev Disord 41, 1–12 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-010-1011-1

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Keywords

  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Dyspraxia
  • Gestural recognition
  • Imitation