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July 1967

Intensive Reinforcement of Imitative Behavior in Mute Autistic Children

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, Indiana University School of Medicine and the Clinical Research Center for Early Childhood Schizophrenia, LaRue Carter Hospital, Indianapolis.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1967;17(1):36-43. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1967.01730250038006

ONE of the major characteristics of many autistic children is their general failure to imitate.1,2 Since much human learning is imitative in nature, the failure to imitate may contribute to the limited behavioral repertoire of the autistic child. It is possible that this failure could result from inadequate motivation for attending to appropriate cues. By elevating motivational levels and associating rewards more closely with attention to cues, imitative behavior might be emitted more frequently. Thus, the establishment of imitative responding in the autistic child, even if it did not lead to an immediate increase in his repertoire of spontaneous behavior, might nevertheless significantly increase his overall range of behaviors, and perhaps provide a basis for further learning.

Although the work of Ferster and DeMyer,3,4 Hingtgen et al,5 and Hingtgen and Trost6 demonstrated that individual and social

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