Vocal Imitation Skills Are Associated with Visual Attention to the Face Region in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Poster Presentation
Friday, May 11, 2018: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
Y. Ishizuka1,2 and J. Yamamoto3, (1)University of Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan, (2)Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Tokyo, Japan, (3)Keio University, Tokyo, Japan

In previous studies, imitation skills were classified into two types, motor imitation and object imitation and had been examining how each kind of imitation relates to other communication skills (e.g., Ingersoll & Meyer, 2011a; 2011b). On the other hand, few studies examined the relationship between vocal imitation and the other communication skills. Imitation can also 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 vocal imitation precision (Vivanti, Nadig, Ozonoff, & Rogers, 2008).


The purpose of this study is to investigate the relationship between motor, object, and vocal imitation precision and other communication skills.


13 children with autism (CA: 2-5years; DA; 1-3years) were included in this study. 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, eye-tracking assessment task, motor development task, and vocal communication task. They received a structured imitation assessment that included 14 object, 14 motor, and 11 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). In 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. In motor development task, we evaluate their gross motor and fine motor skills. In vocal communication task, we asked the parents the number of words that the child can understand and express in the social interaction.


We used Spearman's rank correlation coefficient to examine the associations between each imitation precision and the other communication scores. The result showed that vocal imitation precision was correlated with total time spent looking at face region and mouth region observing stimulus (face; r=.63, p=.03; mouth; r=.52, p=.08). The imitation precision wasn’t associated with total time spent looking time at eye region observing stimulus (eye:r=.14, p=.66). The result showed that vocal imitation precision was correlated with motor developmental scores and vocal communication scores (motor; r=96, p=.001; communication; r=88, p=.002).


The result demonstrated that vocal imitation skills was correlated with multiple social communication skills. Our findings suggest that teaching vocal imitation is one of the most important for early intervention to increase visual attention to adult, motor development and vocal communication. This study is the first to specifically examine the relationship between vocal imitation precision and visual attention to face region. We plan to collect the data for typically developmental children and compare with these results.