The Interplay between Coordinated Motor-Vocal Imitation and Development in Toddlers.

Ayelet Ben-Sasson, Roni Shmeltzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Toddlers leam naturally through imitation of multi-modal stimuli. This study aimed to characterize toddlers' imitation of motor and/or vocal parameters of a demonstrated sequence of actions with or without an object in hand, and to test the association between vocal and motor imitation with motor and language development. Method: Sixty-four toddlers between 12-14 months (M=12.48, SD=0.67) participated of whom 12 were at risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Toddlers imitated sequences of actions demonstrated with vocalizations from the Autism Observation Scale for infant hand tapping, stick tapping, and toy sheep hopping. Each task was coded for imitating a single motor action, imitating a sequence of actions, imitating a single sound, imitating a sequence of sounds, and the coordinated imitation of motor and vocal parameters. The Mullen Scales of Early Learning (MSEL) were administered. Results: 95% of toddlers showed some form of motor imitation, 47% showed vocal imitation, and 20% presented coordinated motor-vocal imitation. Imitation of actions with objects (sheep and stick) elicited significantly higher imitation scores than actions without objects (hand tapping). Higher vocal imitation scores were significantly correlated with higher MSEL expressive language and fine motor scores. Conclusions: Toddlers show a preference to the motor representation of actions in the presence of a competing vocal stimulus. Actions with objects facilitate imitation performance. Findings have implications for understanding the mechanisms of imitation and for designing developmentally appropriate imitation tasks.
Original languageMultiple languages
Pages (from-to)E8-E23
Number of pages17
Journalכתב-עת ישראלי לריפוי בעיסוק
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2016

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