One of the most current autism studies being talked about is the on recently published in the Child Development journal. The study is Contagious Yawning in Autistic and Typical Development. When I first heard about this, I thought it was a silly thing to be studied. The more that I thought about it, I started to change my mind. I realized that nothing should be considered too trivial to study. Every little thing adds up and gives others a better understanding of autism. These building blocks in understanding could lead to breakthroughs in research and treatments.
The authors tested susceptibility to contagious yawning in 120 children, 1–6 years, to identify the time course of its emergence during development. Results indicated a substantial increase in the frequency of contagious yawning at 4 years. In a second study, the authors examined contagious yawning in 28 children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), 6–15 years. Children with ASD showed diminished susceptibility to contagious yawning compared with 2 control groups matched for mental and chronological age, respectively. In addition, children diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) a milder variant of autism, were more susceptible to contagious yawning than were children diagnosed with full Autistic Disorder. The authors explore the implications of these findings for theories about the development of mimicry and emotional contagion. (Child Development)
It was nice to read a study that consisted of more that 20 subjects. Of course, as always, I believe it takes several studies of many test subjects, resulting in the same conclusions, before you can believe the conclusions. However, reading the findings of this report, I am inclined to agree with the conclusions that they have made.
Most parents will agree that imitation is a big issue with autistic children. My son does not imitate. He does, however, learn how to accomplish tasks by watching others. He learned how to operate the electronics in the house by watching me and my husband. I think it is important to understand the difference between learning by watching and imitating another’s actions.
Imitating another’s actions could be a conscience or unconscious reaction to another’s action. You do the action right after. To learn how to do something by watching another, you save that action for when you want to do it. For example, I clap, child claps. Imitation. I turn on the computer, child turns on the computer at a later date. This action is learned and copied at a later date. In a way, I guess you could call it a delayed imitation.
Anyways, I think this is an interesting study. It doesn’t really tell me anything knew, but it may give others a little better understanding of our children. Autism is still a new disorder, compared to others, and needs a lot of scientific research to be conducted to help bring about better therapy, treatments, and maybe even prevention.