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Imitation in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: An Analysis of Task Type and Common Errors




Sevlever, Melina

Type of Degree





The purpose of this study was to identify common imitative errors emitted by children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and typically developing children across varying types of imitative tasks. Twenty-two low-functioning children with ASD, 9 high functioning children with ASD, and 18 typically developing children were included in this sample. Participants completed a series of 15 imitation tasks including object imitation, object-facial imitation, and facial imitation tasks. The prevalence of six error types (i.e., the need for multiple attempts, spatial errors, failure to attend, mirroring, non-compliance, and no-response) were assessed across these three types of imitative tasks. Additionally, accuracy scores were coded in order to examine differences in overall performance between both groups of children. The results of a multilevel model analysis revealed differences in the frequency of errors emitted across the three participant groups. Generally, the rate of errors increased as level of functioning decreased; nevertheless, children with high-functioning ASD emitted significantly more errors than typically developing children. Additionally, the pattern of errors emitted varied by task type for participants with ASD; however, task type appeared to have a more limited effect on the number of errors emitted by typically developing children. The implication of these results in light of several theoretical accounts of the “imitation deficit” in children with ASD is discussed.