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Study by Children's Hospital and Carnegie Mellon explains crucial deficit in children with autism

6 months, performed a series of tasks -- some involving toy figures and others in which children followed objects moving on a computer monitor. In one experiment, children were asked to imitate the actions of a researcher who moved an object, such as a toy cat. Children were able to choose from other objects with varying degrees of similarities to the original toy. In the case of the toy cat, they could choose from a toy dog (the same category and the same parts); a toy dolphin (same category but different parts); a table (the same parts -- legs -- but in a different category); and a car (different parts and in a different category.) Researchers studied the children's play to see whether they chose a toy in the same category and with the same parts as the object chosen by the researcher, and whether they demonstrated the appropriate type of motion.

The authors found that the children with autism performed at the same level as children half their age (18 to 22 months). Children with autism could understand the relationship between certain parts and motion, like legs and walking, but ignored other important characteristics, such as the fact that some things with legs are alive and move deliberately toward other objects.

"I've never seen a single paper in which researchers studied these processes in children this young," Rakison said.


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Contact: Jonathan Potts
jpotts@andrew.cmu.edu
412-268-6094
Carnegie Mellon University
11-Oct-2006


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