This study was designed to explore autistic children's ability to develop an expectancy from environmental events. Social and nonsocial toys were presented to autistic and control children in situations that either allowed or prevented them from predicting their appearance. It was found that autistic children's behavior was seriously disrupted if they could not predict the sequence of environmental stimuli, but their responsiveness to environmental stimuli increased when events were predictable. They approached social objects more readily than nonsocial objects when both were simple in appearance. These findings suggest that an appropriate starting point for therapeutic intervention with autistic children might be to focus on shaping social play in highly structured and predictable environments.
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The authors wish to express their appreciation to the staff at Southeastern State Hospital, LSU Therapeutic Nursery School, and Bienville Public School; to the Little Prince Play School and the A B C Day Care Center; and to the parents of all the children for their helpfulness in making the children subjects available to participate in the study.
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Ferrara, C., Hill, S.D. The responsiveness of autistic children to the predictability of social and nonsocial toys. J Autism Dev Disord 10, 51–57 (1980). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02408432