Teaching children with autism spectrum disorder the skill of imitation

Teaching Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder The Skill Of Imitation

Teaching children with autism spectrum disorder the skill of imitation

translation: a. Ashwaq Al-Anzi

Imitation is an essential skill for a child’s social development. Because it allows children to learn quickly and effectively just by watching those around them, Children also acquire many skills in early childhood without awareness and education, only by watching parents, siblings, and peers demonstrate those skills. During the first years of early childhood, children also show a rapid increase in both verbal and non-verbal communication skills and become able to use different objects appropriately. Developmental psychology also indicates that this learning is the result of the child’s ability to imitate the behaviors and physical movements of others, especially in their first year, when children show a great ability to imitate the facial expressions, movements, and voices of those around them.

Imitation skill in children with autism spectrum disorder

Children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often show deficits in imitation skills. They also often show little interest in the behaviors of others around them and rarely try to imitate them. Reports indicate deficits in a variety of actions, including body movements, use of objects, facial expressions, and speech. This deficit directly affects children’s ability to learn and can also affect the social and communicative competence of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Given that imitation is the basis for building learning, It is important to establish and build that skill as early as possible. When the child learns the skill of imitation, he can begin training in language development skills, social skills, and many other important skills.

How can children with autism spectrum disorder be taught the skill of imitation?

1- Children learn to imitate by imitating them. So imitate your child

Watch your child closely and notice his actions, movements, facial expressions and sounds, then imitate what he does. For example: If your child is knocking on the table, Then imitate the action and say: Look! I imitate you! Or when your child makes a sound, try to imitate it and show the child that you are imitating it. After imitating, wait until your child pays attention to you, then start imitating again. It would also be helpful to have a set of toys to use such as drums, This way you can also imitate your child’s work on objects.

2- Incorporating imitation activities while using the child’s favorite toys

Use a toy that your child loves, then try to pretend that the toy is real and also moving. While playing, make funny and attractive sounds. For example: Take a car and play it back and forth making the car sound. This way you can attract your child’s attention and when you get his attention, say: Do this and show the movement again. after that, Give the car to your child and help him do the same. When he does, It’s time to show him that he did a great job, Reinforce the child’s positive behavior either by rewarding him by giving him something he likes, Or by saying a reinforced phrase such as: wow! excellent! I did well! Take the car back and play the same scenario over and over again. Also try to add some variations to the game and add new games from time to time.

3- Pretend (imaginative) play

You can also use imaginative play to teach your child imitation. For example, You can use the toy and pretend it’s something else. like, Plate and spoon and pretend you are eating. Then you can ask your child to play as well or you can play games that involve imitating your child’s favorite cartoon or movie character, You can also pretend that the dolls and toys are real and that they move or you have to feed them.

4- Use the mirror to teach facial movements and emotional expressions

For example: Use facial expressions and movements such as puffing your cheeks, blowing out a candle, or blowing a kiss and then ask your child to do it. When he tries to imitate you, give the child a mirror so he can watch himself making a point. You can also point to the mirror and say: Look! you do that! This is amazing! To make it more attractive, Try adding funny sounds while showing facial expressions.

5- Functional movements

To practice and teach tradition, Choose movements that the child can use later to learn social, emotional, or language skills, For example: Use facial expressions such as frowning, smiling, or laughing, Also use body movements such as clapping, pointing, or waving. Wave to your child and say: do this, If your child imitates, praise him verbally. If not, help him wave by taking his hand and moving it, then praise him verbally.

6- Make learning fun

Try to incorporate practicing imitation skills into funny and engaging games. If the game is attractive and interesting to your child, he will interact and learn faster. Try to incorporate imitation into the games your child loves most and try to use the games he prefers. Observe your child carefully and find out what your child’s favorite games are and what games he will participate in most easily.

7- Help your child whenever necessary, But as little as possible

Especially in the beginning, Your child may need a lot of help and a lot of positive feedback to imitate you. For example: You may need to hold his hand and move it all the way around to help him wave or show body movement, But the idea when teaching a skill is to make sure that your child can use this skill independently. Therefore, it is important to reduce assistance to the child as soon as possible. For example: If in the first training sessions you use your child’s full physical assistance to lift his arm, Gradually reduce the assistance to softly touching his arm until he raises his arm himself. This is called immediate fading and must be implemented to ensure the child’s independence when performing the skill.

8- Using a social robot to teach imitation to children with autism spectrum disorder

Social robots in general and humanoid robots in particular have shown to be very effective tools for supporting and developing imitation skills in children with autism spectrum disorder. By being simple and having repetitive and predictable behaviours, Social robots can also support children with autism spectrum disorder to practice social skills in a controlled environment where it can reduce their anxiety and improve their cooperation. Several scientific studies have also shown that children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often imitate robots better than human caregivers and that robots have a positive impact on teaching imitation to children diagnosed with ASD and other developmental disorders.

Finally, although many families believe that the skill of imitation is not important, it is considered a basic skill on which many basic skills are built. It is also one of the pivotal skills that must be focused and trained in the early stages of life, especially in early intervention programmes. There are also many practices related to teaching the skill of imitation, Such as using reinforcement, indoctrination, and gradually increasing the levels of the child’s imitation skill. Parents must also know many practices from specialists such as the Certified Behavior Analyst and other specialists in the field in order to guide how to teach your child the skill of imitation effectively.