Early social communicative behaviours of preschoolers with autism spectrum disorder during interaction with their mothers
AbstractThe present study examined spontaneous symbolic play, declarative joint attention, social referencing and imitation of symbolic play in 3- to 6-year-old children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD; n = 20) during interaction with their mothers. Compared to a control group ( n = 20) matched on age and IQ, the children with ASD initiated less joint attention with their mothers when confronted with a pleasant event and they showed a tendency to play less symbolically and more non-functionally. Contrary to expectations, children with ASD showed no social referencing or imitation deficits. Interestingly, two clusters of intercorrelating behaviours were found in the ASD group: one suggesting symbolic or metarepresentational abilities, the other comprising interpersonal behaviours. The findings support the hypothesis that early social communicative abilities may follow a different developmental pathway in ASD, and stress the importance of a contextual factor, namely the presence of the mother.