Risk Alert Imitation
Dr. Deborah Fein explains that imitation is an essential part of development and has many forms from imiation of gestures, or sounds, or words.
"By the time they're 18 months old, they should be imitating words frequently. And by the time they are two, they might even be starting to imitate some simple pretend play routines. "
— Deborah Fein PhD
Early Warning Signs related to Risk Alert Imitation
Dr. Smith explains that a lack of spontaneous imitation can be a key early indicator of autism spectrum risk, though it is sometimes very difficult for parents to identify as a symptom. Given this difficulty, spontaneous imitation is an important area of inquiry for pediatricians when interviewing parents regarding their child's development.
Imitation of gestures, noises and skills is an important milestone of typical development that promotes learning, social interaction and play. Dr. Soorya describes how the imitative abiltiies seen in typically developing children are reduced or absent in children on the autism spectrum.
Children with autism may demonstrate a lack of interest in toys, even when asked to imitate interactions with the objects. After several demonstrations from both the evaluator, Connor, and his mother, Raquel, Evan shows little concern for the toy frog and fails to imitate Connor and Raquel's actions and vocalizations. Although Evan starts to smile and laugh when his mother makes the frog hop, he backs away from the toy when his mother offers him a turn.
Therapies related to Risk Alert Imitation
Though imitation plays a critical role in children's aquisition and honing of new skills, children on the autism spectrum often struggle to imitate others both spontaneously and within the more structured and rewarding environment of a therapy session. Dr Christopher Smith comments.
The lack of spontaneous imitation can be an early symptom of autism. In this clip, the therapist teaches Leighdionne this skill by prompting and rewarding her effort to imitate a simple motor movement (patting her lap). In this way therapy explicitly teaches Leighdionne skills that typically developing children typically learn implicity, or without instruction.
Though many typically developing children begin to imitate others on their own and use this skill to learn nonverbal communication, children with ASD often must be explicitly taught how to imitate.
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