Facilitating initiating joint attention in children with autism spectrum disorder.

Dos Santos, Kerry
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Background: Joint attention (JA) is selectively and pervasively impaired in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and has been found to link to later outcomes in language, theory of mind, play and social development. This study investigated the effectiveness of a social interactive intervention to improve initiating JA skills in children with ASD. The intervention was based on the mirror neuron hypothesis, in that techniques used encouraged the children to take on their communication partners’ perspective through a process of embodied simulation. Method: Three participants diagnosed with ASD, under the age of 5, were recruited as well as 3 typically developing children for the setting of training criteria. A multiple-baseline design across participants was implemented. Results: All three participants displayed improvements in their ability to initiate JA. Skills generalized to other settings and communication partners. Improvements were observed by both trained and naïve observers. Conclusions: A social interactive model, based on the mirror neuron hypothesis, utilizing specific techniques which follow the child’s lead may be used to effectively improve initiating joint attention (IJA) in some children with ASD.
Joint attention, Autism, Mirror neurons, Embodied simulation, Intervention, Social interactive approach, Undemanding talk, Linguistic mapping, Contingent imitation, Object interest