Motor and verbal perspective taking in children with autism spectrum disorder: Changes in social interaction with people and tools

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Research in Developmental Disabilities





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Background Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have difficulty communicating with others nonverbally, via mechanisms such as hand gestures, eye contact and facial expression. Individuals with ASD also have marked deficits in planning future actions (Hughes, 1996), which might contribute to impairments in non-verbal communication. Perspective taking is typically assessed using verbal scenarios whereby the participant imagines how an actor would interact in a social situation (e.g., Sally Anne task; Baron-Cohen, Leslie, & Frith, 1985). Method The current project evaluated motor perspective taking in five children with ASD (8–11 years old) as they participated in a narrative intervention program over the course of about 16 weeks. The goal of the motor perspective-taking task was to facilitate the action of an experimenter either hammering with a tool or putting it away. Results Initially, children with ASD facilitated the experimenter’s action less than neurotypical control children. As the narrative intervention progressed, children with ASD exhibited increased motor facilitation that paralleled their increased use of mental state and causal language, indicating a link between verbal and motor perspective taking. Conclusions Motoric perspective taking provides an additional way to assess understanding and communication in children with ASD and may be a valuable tool for both early assessment and diagnosis of children with ASD.

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