, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 281-307

Symbolic play in autism: A review

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Abstract

Experimental research into the symbolic play of autistic children is reviewed in an attempt to outline the nature of their deficit in this area. While many studies can be criticized on methodological grounds, there is good evidence for an impairment in the spontaneous symbolic play of autistic children, an impairment that appears to extend to cover spontaneous functional play also. However studies that have investigated elicited and instructed play have indicated that autistic children may have a capacity for symbolic play that they do not spontaneously exhibit. The implications of these findings for various hypotheses concerning a symbolic play deficit in autism are considered and directions for future research are outlined.