Imitation in Autism
King's College London
The discovery of “mirror neurons” and the idea that they may be essential for imitation and understanding others' minds suggests a new way to understand the cognitive nature of ASD, offers the potential for imitation-based interventions, and may help define subgroups within ASD to aid in the search for biological causes of autism. Dr. Bolton's fellow will carry out two studies of imitation impairments. The first study will examine a sample of children who were followed from age two years to adolescence to determine if two-year-olds with ASD who do not imitate differ over time from children with ASD who show typical imitation abilities. This could potentially identify a new subtype of autism and aid in a more accurate prognosis. The second study will attempt to establish whether adults and children with ASD show impairments in the automatic imitation of hand, mouth, or eye region movements. The relationship between imitative behaviors, the understanding of self and others, and real-life functioning will be explored. What this means for people with autism: If children with ASD who show imitation impairments differ significantly from those without impairments in that area, autism treatments can be tailored and fine-tuned accordingly.