Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder marked by socio-emotional deficits, and difficulties with pretend play skills. Play skills are related to processes of adaptive functioning and emotion understanding. The present pilot study implemented an in-person pretend play intervention to school-aged children (ages 6 to 9 years, intervention group = 18, control group = 7) diagnosed with high-functioning ASD (HF-ASD), to increase children’s cognitive and affective play skills, and emotional understanding abilities. The intervention consisted of 5 weekly sessions, 15–20 minutes each. The intervention group significantly increased in imagination and cognitive play skills, which generalized to increased skills in emotional understanding. Findings demonstrate the positive impact of a short, easily facilitated, accessible play intervention for school-aged children with HF-ASD.
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Acknowledgements for this this study include recognizing and thanking the children and families who participated, and the teachers and school administrators and helped make this research possible. Acknowledgements also recognize and thank Nicole Baumgartner, B.A., Julia Fleming, B.A., and Taylor Johnson, B.A. who volunteered their time as undergraduate research assistants helping to collect and score data. This study could not have been completed without their efforts.
This study did not receive any financial support.
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Doernberg, E.A., Russ, S.W. & Dimitropoulos, A. Believing in Make-Believe: Efficacy of a Pretend Play Intervention for School-Aged Children with High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 51, 576–588 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-020-04547-8