As most children develop they acquire the ability to imitate other people, pay attention to the same things and reflect others' moods - something psychologists call socially-synchronous behaviour. Unfortunately children with autism do not develop in this way and although there is evidence to suggest that early interventions can help children with autism improve their social skills there have been no trials of methods for 'enhancing socially-engaged imitation.' A team of researchers from the U.S., led by Rebecca J. Landa from John Hopkins University in Baltimore, studied 50 toddlers with autism. All the toddlers took part in a programme to improve their social skills but half of them also received extra help with 'interpersonal synchrony.' Those who were taught how to imitate other people doubled the number of times they copied others, made more eye contact and developed better social skills overall.
Landa, Rebecca J. ... [et al] - Intervention targeting development of socially synchronous engagement in toddlers with autism spectrum disorder: a randomized controlled trial Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2010.02288.x