When "Simon says" doesn't work: Alternatives to imitation for facilitating early speech development

Laura S. DeThorne, Cynthia J. Johnson, Louise Walder, Jamie Mahurin-Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose: To provide clinicians with evidence-based strategies to facilitate early speech development in young children who are not readily imitating sounds. Relevant populations may include, but are not limited to, children with autism spectrum disorders, childhood apraxia of speech, and late-talking toddlers. Method: Through multifaceted search procedures, we found experimental support for 6 treatment strategies that have been used to facilitate speech development in young children with developmental disabilities. Each strategy is highlighted within this article through a summary of the underlying rationale(s), empirical support, and specific examples of how it could be applied within intervention. Conclusions: Given the relatively sparse experimental data focused on facilitating speech in children who do not readily imitate, theoretical support emerges as particularly key and underscores the need for clinicians to consider why they are doing what they are doing. In addition, this review emphasizes the need for the research community to bridge the gap between pressing clinical needs and the limited evidence base that is currently available.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-145
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican journal of speech-language pathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2009


  • Apraxia
  • Preschool children
  • Speech treatment
  • Toddlers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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