Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 487–497 | Cite as

Spontaneous Play in Children with Autism: A Reappraisal

  • Sarah Libby
  • Stuart Powell
  • David Messer
  • Rita Jordan


Much controversy remains regarding the ability of children with autism to engage in spontaneous play. In this study children with autism, Down syndrome and typical development with verbal mental ages of approximately 2 years were assessed for play abilities at three data points. Even in this group of children with autism, who had relatively low verbal mental ages, symbolic play skills were not totally absent. However, it was possible to distinguish their pattern of play behaviors from the other two groups. Consequentially, it is argued that there are unusual features in early spontaneous play in children with autism and these atypical patterns are not restricted to their difficulties in the production of symbolic play. Such differences in early spontaneous play raise interesting questions about the etiology of autism, the direction of future research, and the theoretical models that can account for the condition.

Spontaneous play autism symbolic play 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah Libby
    • 1
  • Stuart Powell
    • 2
  • David Messer
    • 3
  • Rita Jordan
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Clinical PsychologyUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUnited Kingdom
  2. 2.Division of EducationUniversity of HertfordshireAldenham, Watford, HertfordshireU.K
  3. 3.Division of PsychologyUniversity of HertfordshireHertfordshireU.K
  4. 4.School of EducationUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamU.K

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