From a young age, imitation abilities were critical for social cognitive development. Many researchers have found that children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) exhibited poor imitation skills. The development of imitation behaviors in children with ASD was poorly understood. For a study, the researchers sought to determine how early imitation skills affect other aspects of early development in preschoolers with ASD. Researchers tested imitation, language, and cognition skills in 177 children with ASD and 43 normally developing children (TD) aged 2 to 5 years old, with 126 of them being followed longitudinally for a total of 396-time points. In comparison with TD children, the outcomes supported the occurrence of an early imitation deficit in toddlers with ASD. The analysis of the trajectories revealed that the challenges began at the age of 2 and steadily faded until the age of 5. At the start of the study, the ASD group’s imitation skills were closely linked with cognitive and verbal abilities, as well as the severity of their symptoms. Furthermore, in the ASD group, baseline imitation skills were predictive of language gains a year later. Within the ASD group, researchers identified diverse developmental trajectories of imitation skills using a data-driven clustering method. The clinical implications of the outcomes were examined, specifically, the influence of early imitation deficits on a young child’s other areas of competence.

 

Link:jneurodevdisorders.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s11689-021-09412-y