A defining feature of autism is the absence of reciprocity. To date, few instruments have been developed that measure reciprocity directly.
In the current study we examined reciprocity during an unstructured and unfamiliar situation, by means of a new interactive testing procedure, the Interactive Drawing Test (IDT).
53 children and adolescents with and without high functioning autism spectrum disorders (HFASD) were assessed with a new instrument targeting the quality of reciprocity: the interactive drawing test (IDT). Participants were invited to collaborate with an adult experimenter in making a joint drawing.
Compared to controls, HFASD participants showed less reciprocity in their collaboration with the experimenter. They were more inclined to work parallel with the experimenter, preferably based on their own initiative, and they were less tolerant of the experimenter's input compared to the controls. The performance on the IDT was strongly related to the severity of social impairment, but unrelated to cognitive functioning.
The IDT is a promising instrument to differentiate between the reciprocal skills of children and adolescent with HFASD or typical development. Self-other orientation is a crucial component of reciprocal behaviour in HFASD.
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