ABSTRACT This study examined the effects of adult imitation on three joint attention behaviors of nonverbal preschoolers with autism including referential looking, gaze following and gesturing to the adult. Videotapes taken from a previous study were recoded for the adult’s imitation behavior and the children’s joint attention behaviors (Field, Field, Sanders, & Nadel, 2001). In the original study, twenty nonverbal, 4 - 6-year- old children with autism were randomly assigned to one of two groups, an imitation or a contingent responsivity group. Both groups of children engaged in an intervention play phase during which the adult imitated the children or contingently responded to them and a subsequent spontaneous play phase. ANOVAs revealed that the imitation group children versus the contingent responsivity group children spent a greater percent time looking at the adult during the intervention phase and looking at the adult and following the adult’s gaze during the spontaneous play phase. A correlation analysis on the data collapsed across the 2 groups yielded significant correlations between adult imitation during the intervention phase and referential looking and gaze following during the spontaneous play phase. Overall, these results revealed that adults imitating preschoolers with autism elicited joint attention behaviors, highlighting the value of imitation as an intervention.
Cite this paper
Ezell, S. , Field, T. , Nadel, J. , Newton, R. , Murrey, G. , Siddalingappa, V. , Allender, S. & Grace, A. (2012). Imitation Effects on Joint Attention Behaviors of Children with Autism. Psychology, 3, 681-685. doi: 10.4236/psych.2012.39103.
 Boucher, S. M. (2008). Joint attention, imitation, and repetitive behaviors as predictors of autism and expressive language ability in early childhood. Doctoral Dissertation, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
 Carpenter, M., Nagell, K., Tomasello, M., Butterworth, G., & Moore, C. (1998). Social cognition, joint attention, and communicative competence from 9 to 15 months of age. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 63, i-174. doi:10.2307/1166214
 Carpenter, M., Pennington, B. F., & Rogers, S. J. (2002). Interrelations among social-cognitive skills in young children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 32, 91-106.doi:10.1023/A:1014836521114
 Charman, T., Swettenham, J., Baron-Cohen, S., Cox, A., Baird, G., & Drew, A. (1997). Infants with autism: An investigation of empathy, pretend play, joint attention, and imitation. Developmental Psychology, 33, 781-789. doi:10.1037/0012-16184.108.40.2061
 Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
 Escalona, A., Field, T., Nadel, J., & Lundy, B. (2002). Brief report: Imitation effects on children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 32, 141. doi:10.1023/A:1014896707002
 Field, T., Field, T., Sanders, C. & Nadel, J. (2001). Children with autism display more social behaviors after repeated imitation sessions. Child Development, 5, 317-323.
 Heimann, M., Laberg, K. E., & Nord?en, B. (2006). Imitative interaction increases social interest and elicited imitation in non-verbal children with autism. Infant and Child Development, 15, 297-309.doi:10.1002/icd.463
 Hollingshead, A. (1975). Four-factor index of social status. New Haven, CT: Yale University.
 Hwang, B., & Hughes, C. (2000). The effects of social interactive training on early social communicative skills of children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30, 331-343.
 Ingersoll, B., & Screibman, L. (2006). Teaching reciprocal imitation skills to young children with autism using naturalistic behavioral approach: Effects on language, pretend play, and joint attention. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36, 487-505.doi:10.1007/s10803-006-0089-y
 Kasari, C., Freeman, S., & Paparella, T. (2006). Joint attention and symbolic play in young children with autism: A randomized controlled intervention study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 47, 611-620. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2005.01567.x
 Klinger, L., & Dawson., G. (1992). Facilitating early social and communicative development in children with autism. In S. F. Warren, & J. Reichle (Eds.), Causes and effects in communication and language intervention, Vol. 5. Baltimore, MD: Brookes.
 Loveland & Landry (1986). Joint attention and language in autism and developmental language delay. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 16, 335-349. doi:10.1007/BF01531663
 McCarthren, R. B. (2000). Teacher-implemented prelinguistic communication intervention. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 15, 21-29. doi:10.1177/108835760001500103
 Meltzoff, A. N. (1990). Foundation for developing a concept of self: The role of imitation in relating self to other and the value of social mirroring, social modeling, and self practice in infancy. In C. Cicchetti, & M. Beeghly (Eds.), The self in transition: Infancy to childhood (pp. 139-164). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago press.
 Meltzoff, A., & Gopnik, A. (1993). The role of imitation in understanding persons and developing a theory of mind. In S. Baron- Cohen, H. Tager-Flusberg, & D. J. Cohen (Eds.), Understanding other minds (pp. 335-366). New York: Oxford University Press.
 Mundy, P., & Sigman, M. (2006). Joint attention, social competence and developmental psychopathology. In D. Cicchetti, & D. J. Cohen (Eds.), Developmental psychopathology (2nd ed., Vol. 1, pp. 293- 332). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
 Nadel, J. (2006). Does imitation matter to children with autism? In S. J. Rogers, & J. H. G. Williams (Eds.), Imitation and the Social Mind: Autism and typical development (pp. 118-137). New York: Guilford Press.
 Nadel, J., Revel, A., Andry, P., & Gaussier, P. (2004). Toward communication: First imitations in infants, low-functioning children with autism and robots. Interaction Studies, 5, 45-74.doi:10.1075/is.5.1.04nad
 Rogers, S. J., & Pennington, B. F. (1991). A theoretical approach to the deficits in infantile autism. Development and Psychopathology, 35, 137-162. doi:10.1017/S0954579400000043
 Salt, J., Shemilt, J., Sellars, V., Boyd, S., Coulson, T., & McCool, S. (2001). The scottish centre for autism preschool treatment programme: I. A developmental approach to early intervention. Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice, 5, 362-373.doi:10.1177/1362361301005004003
 Salt, J., Shemilt, J., Sellars, V., Boyd, S., Coulson, T., & McCool, S. (2002). The scottish centre for autism preschool treatment program- me: II. The results of a controlled treatment outcome study. Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice, 6, 33-46.doi:10.1177/1362361302006001004
 Trevarthen, C. (1977). Descriptive analyses of infant communicative behavior. In H. R. Schaffer (Ed.), Studies in mother-infant interaction (pp. 227-270). London: Academic Press.
 Uzgiris, I. C. (1981). Two functions of imitation during infancy. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 4, 1-12.
 Williams, J. H. G., Whiten, A., & Singh, T. (2004). A systematic review of action imitation in autistic spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 34, 285-299.