When you are presented with a new task, you naturally ask yourself questions to find a way to complete the task. Some people may want to read the instructions while others may want to watch others do the task and imitate their actions. The task becomes easier to complete when you get to watch someone else do it.
Imitation is a major form of instruction for the early years. Infants, from birth, imitate movements and facial expressions from their parents. Infants are able to imitate sounds and gestures as early as nine months old. Through imitation, children learn significant skills such as talking or pretend-playing.
However, children with autism and other developmental disabilities have extreme difficulties with imitation, which may lead to a lack of interaction with their environment. As a result, these children do not learn the necessary skills to expand their knowledge like typically developing children do.
Learning to imitate is a priority in teaching children with autism. Parents, as significant role models for their children, should create frequent opportunities throughout the day for their children to observe and imitate them. You can provide opportunities for your child to imitate reading a book, playing with cars, eating with a fork, singing the ABC song, etc. The ability to consistently and fluently imitate others will create new learning opportunities that will change your child’s life.