Imitation in the autism-classroom

From infancy a child will imitate an adult or sibling. He will copy facial expressions, gestures and behaviours of others. This type of imitation will include emotional behaviour that the child sees, actions and matching actions to words or instructions. The saying “monkey see monkey do” is often used.

This is however not the case in Autism! For those living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder imitation does not come naturally and the importance of “imitation” is that it is a fundamental component of language development and social skills.  Many say that difficulty with imitation is in fact the “core” deficit of autism spectrum disorders.

Thinking that a child is going to learn just because his brother or sister is doing something and/or because he is amongst children of his own age that are “typically developing” is a mistake many make.

Incorporating imitation into the autism classroom is very important. The desired outcome would be for the child to be able to imitate:

  • Gross motor actions like the clapping of hands
  • Emotions such as happy or sad
  • Fine motor activities such as lacing, building a puzzle or drawing a circle
  • Sounds such as “bbb” or “kkk”
  • Words

Learners with ASD experience difficulty in specific areas that relates directly to learning readiness and imitation skills are skills that the learner would need to acquire as a pre-requisite to formal learning.


Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.