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Res Dev Disabil. 2010 Sep-Oct;31(5):976-84. doi: 10.1016/j.ridd.2010.04.014. Epub 2010 May 14.

An examination of the state of imitation research in children with autism: Issues of definition and methodology.

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Department of Psychology, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849, United States.


Several authors have suggested that children with autism are impaired in their ability to imitate others. However, diverse methodologies, contradictory findings, and varying theoretical explanations continue to exist in the literature despite decades of research. A comprehensive account of imitation in children with autism is hampered by the lack of a consistent and operational definition of imitation and other more simplistic forms of copying behavior. Failure to adopt specific definitions of imitative behavior and tasks capable of distinguishing between various types of copying behavior may be at the root of contradictions across studies of imitation and the lack of a unified theoretical account of the "imitation deficit" in autism. The current state of imitation research in children with autism is discussed, and specific recommendations are suggested regarding the adoption of a comparative taxonomy of imitation, a standardized methodology across researchers, and a standardized imitation battery for children with autism.

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