Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Autism Spectrum Disorders

pp 3421-3421

Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)

  • Fred R. VolkmarAffiliated withDirector – Child Study Center, Irving B. Harris Professor of Child Psychiatry, Pediatrics and Psychology, School of Medicine, Yale University Email author 


A concept developed by the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1896–1934) to describe the point where a child (or adult) is most able to learn. From the educator’s point of view, this suggests giving the child materials/tasks that are carefully selected to enable the child to advance without overwhelming them. Put another way, this notion refers to tasks that the child is capable of learning and performing (often initially with guidance) before these become fully independent activities.

Vygotsky’s views, in some ways, prefigure certain current approaches to treatment and intervention (e.g., in learning difficulties). Other approaches, e.g., Maria Montessori’s teaching methods, similarly attempt to match activities with skills that are emerging for the individual child. Other theorists have referred to these concepts in slightly different ways, e.g., J. McV. Hunt (1961) referred to the “problem of the match.”

See Also


Social Cognition

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