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J Autism Dev Disord. 1995 Dec;25(6):579-95.

Social initiations by autistic children to adults and other children.

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Louisiana State University Medical Center, USA.


Social initiations made by autistic and verbal-matched retarded children were recorded in two naturalistic situations. Frequencies of initiation to adults did not differ between groups, but the retarded children initiated much more frequently to peers. Most interactions for both groups were positive, but the autistic children engaged in more ritualized, and the retarded children more playful, initiations. The autistic children monitored the social environment more when forced into proximity with peers, whereas the retarded children initiated more in the unstructured situation. Autistic initiation to peers was unrelated to severity of autism, but was related to cognitive skills, including vocabulary and comprehension of affect, whereas retarded children's initiations were unrelated to cognitive level. Results are discussed in terms of the differences between adults and children as social stimuli, prerequisite skills for initiation to peers, and the relationship between social cognition and social behavior. It is suggested that autistic and retarded children differ in the quantity of their initiations to peers, and the quality of their initiations to adults, and that initiations to peers may be a particularly useful index of social development in autistic children. Results confirm the need of autistic children for highly structured social environments, and suggest an important role for the remediation of specific cognitive skills such as comprehension of others' affects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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