The Preschool Imitation and Praxis Scale (PIPS): Measure Standardization and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)-Specific Imitation Profiles in High-Functioning Preschoolers
Although imitation impairments are often reported in children with ASD, previous work has not yet determined whether there is a profile of preserved and impaired imitative abilities that is specific to ASD. Insight into this profile has the potential to make a significant difference in our ability to facilitate social learning in this population.
Different ways of copying others’ actions often serve different functions and reflect distinct underlying processes; for instance copying to learn about objects (i.e., procedural imitation) versus copying to be social (i.e., bodily imitation). Studies of imitation have also compared meaningful and meaningless actions. The factor of meaning is almost inevitably confounded with familiarity because such actions are likely to have been performed before. Meaningless actions are often novel. Another dimension explored in a number of studies concerns the temporal complexity of the demonstrated actions (i.e., singular versus sequential actions) (Vivanti & Hamilton, 2014).
The general pattern emerging from the available literature is that children with ASD imitate actions on objects better than actions that do not involve objects, have more difficulties in the imitation of meaningless than meaningful gestures, and find it more difficult to imitate sequences of actions than singular actions (Vivanti & Hamilton, 2014). However, major drawbacks of former studies are that different types of actions are not investigated at once in a single study and that they have looked at the accuracy of imitation performance without controlling for age and developmental level. Given these gaps it is impossible to come to a firm conclusion about an ASD-specific imitation profile.
The present study aims to report the standardization of the Preschool Imitation and Praxis Scale (PIPS) and to apply this measure to examine the imitation profile of high-functioning preschoolers with an ASD.
To construct the PIPS action types with different effects (salient environmental in procedural, internal in bodily imitation), representational levels (meaningful, meaningless), temporal complexities (singular, sequential) and visual monitoring possibilities (transparent, opaque) were chosen to tap the full range of possible imitation mechanisms. Performances on the 30 imitation tasks are scored on a 3 to 5 point scale, which evaluates the spatiotemporal resemblance between the modelled and copied actions. 654 typically developing children (TDC) and 33 children with ASD between 23 and 53 months of age (performance IQ 85-113) participated in the standardization study.
PIPS scale has produced high internal consistency and demonstrates acceptable intra- and interrater and test-retest reliability. Bodily and procedural imitation age-equivalents were derived from PIPS scores of 654 TDC between 12 and 59 months of age (Vanvuchelen, et al., 2011a,b,c). Further details on the results will be presented at the meeting.
The PIPS is a much-needed and comprehensive measure of imitation skills and abilities, which has been standardized on a population of TDC. The application of this measure to young, high-functioning children with ASD in the current study is a critical first step towards a detailed understanding the unique profile of imitation skills in this population, which has been elusive to date.