Parent-led imitation therapy for non-verbal children with suspected autism
This study examined the results of Imitation Therapy conducted by parents of non-verbal children. Fifty-six parents were taught to engage in a specific form of imitation therapy with their child by speech-language pathologists (SLPs) who were familiar with the therapy. The SLPs oversaw the therapy via Zoom conferences and consultation with the parents. Parents who completed the study worked with their child for thirty minutes a day, five days a week, for four weeks. Measures of speech and language production were taken throughout the intervention period to determine progress. The children, ages two to five and a half, made significant increases in the number of different phonemes and the frequency of speech sounds they produced as well as their instances of imitation. Eighty-five percent of them increased their word production. Most of the parents reported that the therapy had been effective in increasing their children’s language and imitation abilities. Children with mild autism symptoms showed more progress than those with severe symptoms. Some of the children who received fewer than the recommended twenty sessions progressed and those who received only two to three sessions did not demonstrate significant changes. Imitation therapy appears to provide an opportunity for parents to assist in children’s development of the sounds and imitative behaviors that are essential to language acquisition. Parent-led imitation therapy may offer an effective alternative when the availability of consistent speech therapy services is limited.