Vital Role of Imitation Skills in Helping Autistic Kids

Parents are often asking: “How does generalized imitation help autistic kids?” Because autistic children lack a natural learning process, they are unable to learn a set of behaviors through their own experiences. Several experts are of the opinion that ASD can be rehabilitated. The same behavioral patterns that non-autistic children learn through their own experiences and learning abilities could be acquired by autistic kids with rehabilitation.
Imitation and role-playing are vital elements to learning processes of children. Each child has a role model. But, role modeling and imitation skills is far more important for autistic kids. Thus, for children to acquire a specific behavior, they need to imitate. They struggle to understand abstract information, but they still can imitate successfully behavior shown to them during their learning process.

Classifying Imitation Skills

Since imitation skills should be classified depending on desired behaviors and skills, first the skills that the child needs to master must be determined. For example, because several autistic children have speech disorders, they cannot acquire speech practice by themselves. Sound imitation method would greatly benefit these children.
If the autistic child lacks behavior instead of speech abilities, functional practices should be involved. But, complex actions such as holding and handling a spoon or fork might consume more time. Chief purpose of functional actions is to assist children in acquiring gross and fine motor skills.
Imitation skills are classified as follows.

1. Depending where it shows on body

  • Verbal Imitation
  • Motor Imitation
  • Sound Imitation
  • Object Imitation

2. Depending on duration

  • Generalized Imitation
  • Immediate Imitation
  • Deferred Imitation

3. Depending on type of function 

  • Cognitive Imitation
  • Goal-oriented Imitation
  • Rational Imitation
  • Selective Imitation

Since operant conditioning is essential in both education and rehabilitation process of autistic individuals, rehabilitations enable him/her to be motivated positively and the learning process to progress. This principle is important also in imitation skills. For instance, when the autistic child finishes an action which he wanted to imitate, he is instantly rewarded, and when he does not, his behavior is immediately corrected.
As mentioned, autistic children do not have regular “educational activities” and might be unable to learn certain information, behavioral patterns, function, and language by themselves. Thus, they must have a role model. This is where imitation comes in. Autistic children are given a role model and this is how they acquire specific skills and functions.

Social Function of Imitation

Not only is imitation essential for each child’s learning process but it also enables socializing. Because imitating behaviors of parents and their reactions towards them are babies’ initial social experiences, this is exactly how they build relations with others in the first place. Imitation in education of autistic children works like that. Imitation not only speeds up the learning process but also enables a social relation with a therapist and contributes to socialization.

Learning Function of Imitation

Imitation is a wonderfully efficient manner of learning various skills both in childhood and adulthood. Autistic kids could acquire their behaviors by imitating their role models. When imitations become constant and consistent, motor skills and language will be permanent. In addition, it would be a lot easier for kids who learn by imitation to explore the world.
If you are dead serious about the cause and cure for autism, read this article: How is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Related to Autism, Asperger's, and Fibromyalgia?