What makes immediate imitation communicative in toddlers and autistic children?
This chapter examines immediate imitation and presents data in the framework. It suggests that the appearance of the long sequences is one indication that co-ordination between imitator's and imitatee's roles has been achieved and the imitative system of communication is operational. Analysing these sequences reveals that they all share three features of a communicative system: symmetry, codification and synchrony. The ease in which role switching takes place between imitatee and imitator in a variety of circumstances controlled by the young partners is suggestive of a system of communication with an elementary non-verbal code: offering the identical object initiates an imitative sequence. If synchronism is a necessary parameter for imitation to be communicative, the imitative system should be functional between peers when children first become able to synchronously imitate each other. Structures of long social orientation according to age supports the idea that imitative exchanges are earlier and simpler than other interactive formats, in autistic children as in normal toddlers.