This paper aims to present the application and critical reflection on the effects of a intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD): the Soundbeam Imitation Intervention (SII). The intervention is based on the imitation of meaningless body gestures supported by a musical feedback. The rationale underlying SII is that mirror neurons deficit may represent the cause for the incomplete development of social and motor functioning in children with ASD. Following this assumption, it is possible to hypothesise that a systematic activation of this a system through the simultaneous observation-execution of meaningless body gestures may affect functional changes of mirror-related functions.
A sample of 14 children, who were between 5 and 9 years of age, with a diagnosis of ASD were involved in a six weeks’ SII programme. The programme is designed as a three-step progression, where each step includes exercises that focus on an activity: synchronous/one arm imitation, synchronous/two arms imitation and delayed imitation. Exercises are based on repeated movements-melodies associations of increasing difficulty. Motor imitation and social attention were assessed using a synchronous video-modelling task pre and post intervention.
Data highlight significant improvements in imitation accuracy and duration of social sustained attention were achieved.
Data reported in this paper provide preliminary and promising evidence that imitation and social attention skills acquired through SII can be generalised to a video-modelling imitation setting. The SII ordinal execution has included meaningless gestures, usually excluded from previous interventions, and this adds further validity to the training.