Study: Teaching Empathy Skills to Children with Autism

The purpose of this study was to teach empathetic responding to 4 children with autism. Instructors presented vignettes with dolls and puppets demonstrating various types of affect and used prompt delay, modeling, manual prompts, behavioral rehearsals, and reinforcement to teach participants to perform empathy responses. Increases in empathetic responding occurred systematically with the introduction of treatment across all participants and response categories.


Furthermore, responding generalized from training to nontraining probe stimuli for all participants. Generalization occurred from dolls and puppets to actual people in a nontraining setting for 2 participants.


Generalization was observed initially to the nontraining people and setting for the other participants, but responding subsequently decreased to baseline levels. Introduction of treatment in this setting produced rapid acquisition of target skills. (Contains 3 tables and 6 figures.)