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Keywords:

  • generalized imitation;
  • vocal responding;
  • toy play;
  • autistic children;
  • response classes

An experimental analysis of imitation was conducted to examine the influence of response topography on generalization of imitation across three response types. Four children with autism were presented with both reinforced training trials and nonreinforced probe trials of models from vocal, toy-play, and pantomime response types. The probe trials were used to examine generalization within each response type. A multiple baseline design was used to analyze percentage of matching and nonmatching responses to models across response types. This study, the first to analyze imitative response classes in children with autism, showed that imitation generalized from reinforced training models to nonreinforced probe models within a response type, but it did not generalize across response types. Thus, functional response classes determined by topographical boundaries were exhibited within generalized imitation.