Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Roger R. Ries


Deficits in joint attention, imitation, and pretense are believed to contribute to subsequent difficulty in the development of a theory of mind in children with autism (Baron-Cohen, 1991; Mundy, 1995). Joint attention and other early social skills of children with autism (34 male, 4 female; ages 4 to 18 years) were correlated with measures of nonverbal cognitive ability (Leiter International Performance Scale), receptive and expressive language skills (Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised and Expressive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised), and the severity of autism (Childhood Autism Rating Scale) to gain a better understanding of these developmental relationships. Joint attention and other early social skills were measured with the Social Interest Inventory (SII), a questionnaire developed for this study and completed by Parents and Teachers, Subjects with autism at all levels of cognitive and language ability were found to have deficits in joint attention, imitation, and pretense. Joint attention deficits were not correlated to the acquisition of language or to the cognitive ability of the Subjects. This is a deviance from the typical course of development. However, deficits in joint attention imitation, and pretense showed significant correlations with the overall severity of autism, Students with autism reportedly engage in significantly higher levels of instrumental than social communication and parents tend to rate their children somewhat higher than teachers on several SII measures, Joint attention deficits may have a more profound effect on how language and cognitive skills are used by children with autism than on how they are acquired. Interventions which focus primarily on the cognitive and language abilities of children with autism may overlook more basic social skills such as joint attention which may warrant more direct intervention.



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