Nadel, Jacqueline
September 2004
Journal of Cognitive & Behavioral Psychotherapies;Sep2004, Vol. 4 Issue 2, p165
Academic Journal
Synchronic imitation generates a unique phenomenon with multiple outcomes: seeing ones' intentions acted through the behaviour of the other. In the past we have shown that imitation and imitation recognition allow preverbal infants to find common topics based on similar actions, and to take conversational turns by alternating the roles of imitator and model. Therefore the gap between recognizing actions and coding messages with communicative intent is not as enormous as it looks at first glance: Understanding the other's intentional actions is prepared by the use of the imitative system, via the action recognition mechanism In this paper, we review earlier results with typical preverbal children and stress the importance of imitation in the sociocognitive development of non verbal children with autism. Using a design which allows us to evaluate spontaneous imitation, we have found that even very low-functioning children with autism mostly produce spontaneous imitations in socially embedded situations. The imitations produced are simple gestural matching or imitations of familiar or novel actions that are goal-directed and involve affordant or non-affordant objects. They are a good predictor of social capacities. They enhance attention to persons and expectancies for social contingencies. Repeated imitative sessions improve imitation, recognition of being imitated, and non verbal communication. Through being imitated low-functioning children with autism start understanding that they can be at the origin of intentional actions of others. This was shown through the use of a revisited version of the Still Face paradigm consisting in a still episode of a stranger followed by an imitative interaction initiated by the stranger and ending with a second still face: all children reacted to the second still face as a violation of intentional exchanges, while they had no protest during the first


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