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Play and the Child
Transcript of Play and the Child
A workshop about autism spectrum disorder and the importance of teaching play.
Time to Teach!
Nicole Robinson, MA (candidate); ABA Therapist
and Crystal Harms, M.Ed., BCaBa; Executive Director,
Brief overview of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): What do we know?
Typical development of play
Disordered play in ASD
Break (15 mins)
Teaching play to children with ASD: Where do we start?
Evidence-based interventions for teaching play
Summary and Discussion
The Importance of Play
Brief Overview of ASD
Did You Know?
Sharyn Matthews (2008):
(especially the component of verbal communication)
Teachers accord great importance to self-regulation as a
NAEYC 2009: Position Statement on Developmentally
promotes key abilities that enable children to
… the collaborative planning of
roles and scenarios and the impulse control required to stay
within the play’s constraints develop children’s
symbolic thinking, memory, and language.
These capacities are critical to later
learning, social competence,
and school success.
Development of Play
Child plays by themselves.
Child plays near another child, may show interest or occasionally exchange toys, but is not really interactive.
Several children are engaged in the same play and interact with one another. They share equipment or toys, but play ideas are not in sync.
Children work together toward a common goal or share a fantasy theme that requires mutual exchange to build the scenario. Uncommon at preschool age.
Disordered Play in ASD
Significant deficits in functional play
Delays in developing pretend and
Less frequent spontaneous play
High frequency of repetitive play
Limited imitation skills
Limited cooperative play and
Descriptions of Play (from the Developmental Play Assessment: DPA) Lifter (2000)
Due to the strong developmental relationships between play, language, and social development, the lack of play in children with autism is cause for concern.
Shape, size, number, colours
Communication and Language
Why do children with autism not engage in pretend play?
Lack of motivation and reinforcement
Pretend Play and Autism (Jarrold, 2003)
DPA Play Categories (cont'd)
Doll as agent
Thematic Fantasy Play
Explore, take hold of objects, move from place to place
Treat all objects alike
Take toys apart
Developing knowledge of objects in relation to the self
Calling attention to objects and events
Take Apart Combinations of Toys:To Take Hold of Them, To Mouth Them
Create relationships between objects
Puzzle piece into frame, nesting cup into another
Objects in/out containers
Developing knowledge of objects in relationship to other
objects and people (underlies object perm., cause-effect)
First words (emergence of first conventional words)
Mean: 13.8 mos
Range = 10-18 mos
Code meanings evident in context
(relations between objects, object permanence, location)
/this/, /gone/, /more/, /up/
Put Things Together Based on Perceptual Properties
Move Various Objects In and Out of Containers
Begins to Create Combinations Based on Physical Properties
Transition to Vocabulary Spurt
Create specific relationships based on physical & conventional properties of objects
Stacks nesting cups
Feeds doll w/ spoon
Uses tool to fix car
Mean = 19.4 mos
Range = 13-25 mos
Code meanings anticipated in context:'baby' as prepares to feed doll with spoon
Continue to Create New Combinations Based on Physical Properties:
Create New Combinations Based on What Has Been Observed and Remembered
Play During Early Sequences
Actions represent cultural practices
Develops from “see-then-act” to planned
multischeme sequences (Sees baby, cup,
blanket --> picks up doll, cradles it, gives it a
drink, then lays it on blanket to sleep)
Building on single words to successive single words to simple sentences
Announcements of actions: /baby wants a
drink/, then enacts the scheme
Teaching Procedures for Promoting Play (Stahmer, Ingersoll, & Carter, 2003)
Discrete Trial Training
Break down skill and use highly structured trials
Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) Clear instructions, child choice, naturalistic reinforcement, reinforcement of attempts, turn taking
Differential Reinforcement of Alternative Behaviours (DRA)
In-Vivo Modeling, Video Modeling, and Play Scripts
Peer Interactions & Play
(Bass & Mulick, 2007; McConnell, 2006)
In free play situations, children with autism are more likely to:
Observe others from a distance
Engage in problem behavior
When children with autism do interact with peers they are more likely to:
Make and receive fewer social initiations
Respond to fewer initiations
Engage in shorter bursts of interaction
Exhibit irregular eye contact
Peer Interactions & Play
(Bass & Mulick, 2007; McConnell, 2006)
Just putting children with more competent peers is not enough as peers may misinterpret, not reinforce or even punish attempts at interaction
This may result in further isolation for a child with autism
Instead, teach peers and siblings to initiate, prompt, and reinforce social interactions
Reduce dependence on adult prompts
Ensure that there are already natural and realistic models for language and behavior in the play environment
Peer serves as model for engaging in an appropriate behavior
In-vivo or video model
Target learner and peer sit in proximity to each other
Peer emits behavior (with or without teacher instruction)
Teacher may provide reinforcement for peer
Teacher prompts target learner to imitate behavior
Teacher reinforces correct response
Teacher fades prompts
Teacher differentially reinforces prompted and unprompted responses
Pretend Play (Weiss & Harris, 2001)
After two-step imitation mastered
Choose objects that are interesting to child, but not objects that he only engages in stereotypy with
Teach one-step pretend – some with objects and some without; move to two, three and four-steps
Pretend Receptive Actions
“Pretend you are ________” (e.g., sleeping, feeding the doll)
Teach one-step and increase to multi-step
Pretend Representational Play
“Pretend this is a ____________” (e.g., the banana is a phone)
Pretend Joint Imaginary Play
“Let’s pretend that ______________” and child and you each have an equal role
Each sequence 4-8 min long and each person describes his activities as he goes along
Prompt with video, auditory, written scripts and/or pictures
Narrate the child’s play – “You play and I’ll tell a story.”
Have the child narrate your play –
“I’ll play and you tell a story.”
Have the child narrate his own play
1) Your name and where you work
2) Your experience with autism and/
or what you hope to learn today
Fewell, R., & Glick, M. (1993). Observing play: An appropriate process for
learning and assessment.
Infants and Young Children, 5
Handleman, J.S., Harris, S., eds. Preschool Education Programs for
Children with Autism (2nd ed). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed. 2000.
Lifter, K. (2000). Linking assessment to intervention for children with
developmental disabilities or at-risk for developmental delay: The
DPA. In K. Gitlin-Weiner, A. Sandgrund, & C.E. Schaefer (Eds.), Play
diagnosis and assessment (2nd ed.) (pp. 228-261). NY: Wiley
Parten, M (1932). "Social participation among preschool children". Journal
of Abnormal and Social Psychology 28 (3): 136–147.
Weiss, M.J., & Harris, S.L. (2001). Reaching out, joining in. Bethesda, MD:
The developmental sequence of play facilitates observation of the domains of development
(Fewell and Glick, 1993).
It is important that our teaching is child-directed and based on their motivation!
set of instructions that breaks down complex tasks into smaller steps
pictures and words are used to help explain each step
simplifies the skill and caters to children with autism, who are often visual learners
The National Standards Project recognizes video modeling as an established treatment for teaching social interactional skills for children with autism (2015).
Example DaMu: video modeling
Describe her play development.
Interacting with others
How do I respond to a conflict?
Reaching, showing, eye contact
Requesting, labeling, initiating