ABAs imitation programs have been really challenging for R. At first she really did not have much of an ability to imitate at all. In the last 6 months or so I’ve noticed that she will imitate something that is of interest to her. If I’m doing something with one of her toys she will copy me. The behaviorist told me that this meant she had the ability to imitate, but that it was not yet under instructional control.
When we started with the school’s ABA program, they started with the same gross motor imitation (GMI) program that the EI ABA provider used. They said do this and clapped their hands. When she did not clap they would take her hands and clap them for her. R. seemed to understand that she was expected to do something and she would just hold out her hands. She did this with the EI ABA also. This is a result of over prompting. The authors of The Verbal Behavior Approach call this zombie hands, and that seems so appropriate. Our EI ABA provider did not adjust the prompt level often enough. Of course I did not realize this until I did a bit of research and by then it was time for the preschool transition. Our current behaviorist clearly knew what she was seeing, and instructed the therapists to delay the prompt and gradually they were able to remove it. The behaviorist and supervisor adjusted the prompt level several times a week, they really stayed on top of it. R. is going to master not just one but several GMI programs soon.