Integrated Play Groups: Promoting Social Communication and Symbolic Play with Peers Across Settings in Children with Autism
San Francisco State University
Children on the autism spectrum experience challenges in social interaction, communication and play and are at a high risk for being excluded by peers. In turn, this can deprive children of opportunities to develop their social and communicative potential. The Integrated Play Groups Model (IPG) is an intervention designed to promote social development in children with autism while building relationships with typical peers. IPGs also may have positive effects on the unaffected children participating, by increasing sensitivity and acceptance towards autism. In this study, the effectiveness of IPG in developing social skills in autistic children and in raising awareness of autism in typical peers will be evaluated. Dr. Wolfberg and colleagues will examine whether 30 autistic children participating in a 24-week IPG program show greater improvements in play, social, and communication behaviors than a control group who do not participate, and whether these improvements remain stable over time. Behavioral improvement will be evaluated by observation and parent ratings. As well, researchers will conduct clinical interviews with the non-autistic peer participants in the IPGs to examine changes in their understanding of autism and social inclusion of their autistic peers. Findings from this study will help in the understanding of how children with and without autism interact, and may provide further evidence-based support for this intervention in the treatment of autism.