Brief Report: Imitation of Object-Directed Acts in Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

J Autism Dev Disord. 2016 Feb;46(2):691-7. doi: 10.1007/s10803-015-2596-1.


Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) imitate less than typically developing (TD) children; however, the specific features and causes of this deficit are still unclear. The current study investigates the role of joint engagement, specifically children's visual attention to demonstrations, in an object-directed imitation task. This sample was recruited from an early ASD screening study, which allows for an examination of these behaviors prior to formal diagnosis and ASD-specific intervention. Children with ASD imitated less than TD children; children with other developmental delays showed no significant difference from the two other screen-positive groups. Additionally, only the ASD group showed decreased visual attention, suggesting that early visual attention plays a role in the social learning of children with ASD.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorders; Cognitive development; Developmental disabilities; Imitation; Social learning; Visual attention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / physiopathology
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imitative Behavior*
  • Male