Teaching reciprocal imitation skills to young children with autism using a naturalistic behavioral approach: effects on language, pretend play, and joint attention.
Children with autism exhibit significant deficits in imitation skills which impede the acquisition of more complex behaviors and socialization, and are thus an important focus of early intervention programs for children with autism. This study used a multiple-baseline design across five young children with autism to assess the benefit of a naturalistic behavioral technique for teaching object imitation. Participants increased their imitation skills and generalized these skills to novel environments. In addition, participants exhibited increases in other social-communicative behaviors, including language, pretend play, and joint attention. These results provide support for the effectiveness of a naturalistic behavioral intervention for teaching imitation and offer a new and potentially important treatment option for young children who exhibit deficits in social-communicative behaviors.