, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 467-489

Integrated play groups: A model for promoting the social and cognitive dimensions of play in children with autism

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This investigation provides a description of a multifaceted model to promote peer play, and an evaluation of its impact on the social and cognitive dimensions of play in three children with autism. A combination of quantitative and qualitative methodologies were used to evaluate the effectiveness of the model application. A multiple-probe design across participants demonstrated (a) decreases in isolate play and collateral gains in more social forms of play, and (b) decreases in stereotyped object play and collateral gains in functional object play. While no symbolic play was observed in any of the participants during baseline, two participants demonstrated symbolic play in the final condition. Generalization and social validation measures indicated (a) advances in play behaviors were not limited to the play groups but observed in other contexts, and (b) were accompanied by language gains. Implications are discussed in terms of preferred service delivery models as well as of the importance of social interaction for the development of play and language.

Special thanks to the children, parents and teacher who participated in this study. We are also grateful to Therese O'Connor for her assistance in data collection and coding, and Cerrissa MacNichols for videotaping play group sessions. This research was supported, in part, by contract #HO86D90016 from the United States Department of Education (Office of Special Education). The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and no official endorsements should be inferred.