The Importance of Teaching Motor Imitation to Children with Autism: Higher Imitators Can Look to the Face Region More Than Lower Imitators When Observing Motor Gestures.

Friday, May 12, 2017: 5:00 PM-6:30 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
Y. Ishizuka1 and J. Yamamoto2,3, (1)Keio University, Tama, Japan, (2)Keio University, Tokyo, JAPAN, (3)CREST, Japan Science and Technology Agency, Chiyodaku, Tokyo, Japan
Background: Imitation can serve two skills, to direct own attention to model stimulus and to do same gestures as model stimulus. However there were few studies to show the association between visual attention and imitation precision (Vivanti, Nadig, Ozonoff, & Rogers, 2008).

Objectives: The purpose of this study is to investigate the relationship between imitation precision and visual attention to face region of motor, object, and oral-facial stimulus.

Methods: 10 children with autism were included in this study. The range of chronological ages was 4 years to 6 years, and developmental age ranged from 1 year to 3 years. We plan to recruit more participants.The experiment was conducted in a testing room at a laboratory. All children participated in the imitation assessment task and eye-tracking assessment task. They received a structured imitation assessment that included 6 object, 6 motor, and 6 vocal imitation tasks. Each child saw symmetric (e.g. touch own head with own hands) and asymmetric gesture (e.g. touch own head with a hand and touch own stomach with the other hand), self (e.g. touch own head with own hands) and other (touch other’s head with own hands) directed gesture on object, and oral (e.g. make noise //a//) and face gestures (e.g. extend tongue). Children also received eye-tracking assessment task.Each child was seated in a chair at a table 30 inches from an 23.5 × 13.3 inch monitor and required to look at experimental stimulus. It was composed of object, motor, oral-facial video clips, which was same as imitation assessment task.

Results: We used Spearman correlations to examine the associations between each imitation precision and fixation durations to face region for each tasks. The result showed that imitation precision was correlated with total time spent looking at face region observing motor stimulus (r=.790, p=.007). The imitation precision wasn’t associated with total time spent looking time at face region observing object and vocal stimulus (object:r=.419, p=.228; vocal: r=.158, p=.663).

Conclusions: The result demonstrated that higher imitator had more looked at the face region observing motor stimulus. Our findings suggest that teaching motor imitation is one of the most important for early intervention to increase general and selective visual attention to adult. On the other hand, there is no necessity for children with autism who show higher imitation performance to look face when observing object and vocal stimulus, because they have only to look object or hear the vocal stimulus. This study is the first to specifically examine the relationship between imitation precision and visual attention to face region when observing motor, object and vocal stimulus. We plan to collect the data for typically developmental children and compare with these results.