Update on the Current Change Healthcare Outage

Click here for Therapy Brands FAQs

How Motor Imitation Increases a Learner’s Independence

Reading Time: 3 Minutes
Child learning motor imitation skills

What is Motor Imitation?

Have you ever watched a YouTube video of how to do something and then successfully completed the task on your own? Having the ability to successfully imitate others is important to be able to readily acquire new skills. We learn many of the skills we utilize today through observation whether it be walking, talking, cleaning, or cooking. Motor imitation is a very important skill to work on with our learners because it promotes independence and facilitates continuous learning.

Nowadays it is incredibly easy to conduct an internet search on step-by-step guides on how to do a variety of tasks yourself. There are plenty of videos that show you how to perform various tasks such as preparing meals, fixing appliances, cleaning, lawn care, detailing your vehicle, home repairs, etc. This is very useful because it not only instructs you on how to do something, but also provides a video aid to show you an exact demonstration. Being able to see someone performing a new task and then being able to imitate and perform the task yourself increases one’s independence and skillset.

How Can I Work on Motor Imitation Skills with My Learner?

Try conducting a series of motor imitation trials with your learner. To assist you with this, we’ve created a motor imitation tool that you can utilize. But how do you run a motor imitation trial?

First, provide a model, or example, of the desired behavior you would like your learner to perform. Next, instruct them to perform the same behavior and if they appear to be having difficulty performing the behavior, provide prompting. Once they perform the desired behavior, provide reinforcement. When appropriate begin to fade the prompts so the learner is increasing their independence until they are ultimately able to imitate you independently without any prompting.

When Working on Motor Imitation Don’t Forget To…

  • Gain the learner’s attention before providing the discriminative stimulus
  • Intersperse target
  • Utilize behavior momentum
  • Fade prompts when appropriate
  • Intersperse discriminative stimulus (Sd or SD).
  • Reinforce the learner’s correct responses immediately.
  • Prompt appropriately based on the learner’s needs.
  • When appropriate, utilize errorless teaching.
  • If running discrete trials keep a good pace between each trial (avoid long pauses, but do allow breaks as a reward) *

*Every learner is different so assess what is best for each client individually and make a data-based decision. *


It is important to work on motor imitation because it prepares the learner to acquire a wider variety of skills. To keep track of all your motor imitation targets and your client’s performance you can input these goals into Catalyst. With Catalyst, you can collect all your data on your personal device and the system will automatically graph your data. Additionally, you can indicate and score the specific prompt you utilized when running each trial. To sign up for a Catalyst trial click here.


Gregory, M. K., DeLeon, I. G., & Richman, D. M. (2009). The influence of matching and motor‐imitation abilities on rapid acquisition of manual signs and exchange‐based communicative responses. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42(2), 399-404.



Related Posts