The Social Role of Imitation in Autism: Implications for the Treatment of Imitation Deficits

  title={The Social Role of Imitation in Autism: Implications for the Treatment of Imitation Deficits},
  author={Brooke Ingersoll},
  journal={Infants \& Young Children},
  • B. Ingersoll
  • Published 1 April 2008
  • Psychology
  • Infants & Young Children
Individuals with autism exhibit significant deficits in imitation skills. This article reviews the importance of imitation in typical development, focusing on the social function of imitation and its role in the development of social communication skills. Second, it reviews evidence suggesting an association between imitation deficits and social communication impairments in children with autism. Third, it discusses limitations of the current method for teaching imitation that targets only the… 

Critical review: the efficacy of Reciprocal Imitation Training as a treatment for imitation deficits in young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

This research provides strongly suggestive evidence that RIT is an effective tool for imitation therapy in young children with autism.

Imitation in Autism Spectrum Disorders

The nature, causes, and treatment of imitation differences in ASD are discussed and imitation performance appears to decrease as the social-processing and motor demands in the task increase.

Does Impaired Social Motivation Drive Imitation Deficits in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Evidence is described that suggests that both the impairments in imitation that have been seen in some areas, and the relative sparing of imitation in other areas, can be explained by impairment in social motivation.

Brief Report: Effect of a Focused Imitation Intervention on Social Functioning in Children with Autism

  • B. Ingersoll
  • Psychology, Medicine
    Journal of autism and developmental disorders
  • 2012
Although gains in social functioning were associated with treatment, a mediation analysis did not support imitation as the mechanism of action, and findings suggest the intervention improves social functioning in children with ASD.

Prospective Social Entrainment: Imitation Interventions in Children With Autism

Imitation provides the basis for acquiring knowledge, as well as providing a foundation for the development of reciprocal social skills. Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) do not naturally

The Effect of Context on Imitation Skills in Children with Autism.

Social intervention for adolescents with autism and significant intellectual disability: initial efficacy of reciprocal imitation training.

Overall, the results suggest that RIT may be effective at improving social interaction and decreasing self-stimulatory behavior in adolescents with autism and significant ID.

The impact of object and gesture imitation training on language use in children with autism spectrum disorder.

These findings suggest that adding gesture imitation training to object imitation training can lead to greater gains in rate of language use than object imitation alone.



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This article considers the evidence for an imitative deficit in autism and for the possible role of deficiencies in the representation of actions. An argument is developed for the claim that the

Teaching Reciprocal Imitation Skills to Young Children with Autism Using a Naturalistic Behavioral Approach: Effects on Language, Pretend Play, and Joint Attention

Support is provided for the effectiveness of a naturalistic behavioral intervention for teaching imitation and a new and potentially important treatment option for young children who exhibit deficits in social-communicative behaviors is offered.

Teaching the Imitation and Spontaneous Use of Descriptive Gestures in Young Children with Autism Using a Naturalistic Behavioral Intervention

Support is provided for the effectiveness of a naturalistic intervention for teaching gesture imitation in young children with autism.

The Effect of Context on Imitation Skills in Children with Autism.

Developmental Correlates of Different Types of Motor Imitation in Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Findings support previous findings that motor imitation may not reflect a unitary construct for children with ASD and that different skills may underlie the performance of different types of motor imitation.

Infants with autism: an investigation of empathy, pretend play, joint attention, and imitation.

Compared with developmentally delayed and normally developing children, 20-month-old children with autism were specifically impaired on some aspects of empathy, joint attention, and imitation.

Imitation performance in toddlers with autism and those with other developmental disorders.

Imitation skills were differentially impaired in young children with autism, and lack of social cooperation did not account for their poor performance, but Hypotheses about a specific dyspraxic deficit underlying the imitation performance in autism were not supported.

An experimental investigation of social-cognitive abilities in infants with autism: Clinical implications

The identification of autism-specific impairments in early social cognitive abilities may have important clinical implications, for the early diagnosis of the disorder and for the setting of goals and monitoring of progress in early intervention programs.

Imitation and identification in autism.

  • R. HobsonA. Lee
  • Psychology
    Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines
  • 1999
This study was designed to test the prediction that adolescents with autism would have specific limitations in imitating the "style" of another person's actions, and found that in 3 out of 4 tasks, strikingly fewer participants with autism imitated with style with which the demonstrator executed the actions.