Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

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Symposium #506
CE Offered: BACB
Playing and Pretending: A Behavioral Approach to Teaching Pretend Play
Monday, May 27, 2019
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Hyatt Regency East, Lobby Level, Plaza Ballroom AB
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Nancy J. Champlin (ACI Learning Centers)
CE Instructor: Nancy J. Champlin, M.S.

Play is an integral part of typical development and should be an emphasis in early intervention for children with autism (Lifter & Bloom, 1989). Utilizing behavioral intervention leads to significant increases in play skills (Stahmer, 1995) and decreases inappropriate behaviors including self-stimulatory behaviors (Sani-Bozkurt & Ozen, 2015). The Pretend Play and Language Assessment and Curriculum (PPLAC) is a developmentally-sequenced, behaviorally- based tool designed to establish and expand pretend play in children, ages 2-7. The 5 elements of pretend play, category, agent, object, advanced, and the essential skills to sociodramatic play, are targeted systematically to teach independent and sociodramatic pretend play to children with autism. The studies in this symposium evaluate the effectiveness of the PPLAC when teaching various stages of pretend play. Familiar play actions and corresponding vocalizations from Stage 1: Single Agent were taught across three communication modalities to further assess the correlation between play and language. Object of play, specifically symbolic play, was evaluated to identify preferences in object substitution items. Additionally, the effectiveness of two behavioral interventions, script fading and video modeling, was evaluated when targeting a sequence of play in Stage 3: Play Schemes.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Pretend Play, Script fading, Symbolic play, Video modeling
Target Audience:


Learning Objectives: 1) Participants will identify five elements of pretend play including category, agent, object, advanced play, and the essential skills to sociodramatic play 2) Participants will identify attributes of object substitution items including size, shape, and color to utilize when teaching pretend play 3) Participants will identify how to use a speech generating device when teaching pretend play 4) Participants will identify the systematic approach to introducing and chaining targets in Stage 1 5) Participants will label the social expectations for targets in Stage 1: Single Agent from the Pretend Play and Language Assessment and Curriculum 6) Participants will identify effective interventions to teach a sequence of pretend play actions and corresponding vocalizations 7) Participants will compare rates of acquisition, maintenance, and generalization for two behavioral interventions, script fading and video modeling

An Evaluation of Object Substitution Items in the Symbolic Play of Children With Autism

NANCY J. CHAMPLIN (ACI Learning Centers)

Development of symbolic play is indicative of a child's cognitive development (Casby, 2003). Object substitution is the form of symbolic play that has been most systematically related to future language development (Smith & Jones, 2011). Substituted objects initially tend to be ambiguous, simple in shape, have minimal surface details, and are geometrically similar in shape (Smith & Jones, 2011; Ungerer Zelazo, Kearsley, & O’Leary, 1981). When utilizing behavioral interventions children with autism are capable of the same level of symbolic play as typically developing children (Charman & Baron-Cohen, 1997). The purpose of this study was to assess object substitution preferences between household items and alternative toy items for three boys with autism, ages 2-5, across three different play targets. Object substitution items were analyzed for similar size, shape, color, and function. Following acquisition of the play target with the actual item, the adult modeled the play action and corresponding vocalization with the item (e.g., hot dog) immediately prior to presenting the child with two object substitution options to complete the play action. The results comparing the selections were evaluated. The outcome of this study demonstrated that household items were more frequently selected when compared to alternative toy items.

Teaching Pretend Play Actions Across Three Communication Modalities
Abstract: Pretend play provides critical learning opportunities for all children in their everyday lives (Ozen, Batu, & Birkan, 2012), and is the primary context to establish and expand social communicative skills (Mathieson & Banerjee, 2010). Sigman and Ruskin (1999) identified a correlation between play and language development. Deficits in functional speech lead to barriers in participation and inclusion during play (Boesch, Wendt, Subramanian, & Hsu, 2013). Utilizing augmentative and alternative communication can address these barriers. The purpose of this study was to teach three children diagnosed with autism, ages 2-5, play actions and vocalizations across 20 targets in Stage 1: Single Agent from the Pretend Play and Language Assessment and Curriculum. Familiar actions and vocalizations were taught across three additional elements of pretend play: agent, object, and essential skills to sociodramatic play. Three communication modalities were utilized in the study including vocalizations, PECS, and a speech generating device. A concurrent multiple baseline across participants was conducted across three actions and vocalizations. The outcome of the study demonstrated the efficacy of the steps identified in Stage 1: Single Agent, to teach all 3 children, across communication modalities, single play actions with corresponding vocalizations incorporating four of the five elements of pretend play.
Script Fading or Video Modeling to Teach One Character Role in a Sequence of Play
MOLLIE ANN RICHERT (ACI Learning Centers), Nancy J. Champlin (ACI Learning Centers), Melissa Schissler (ACI Learning Centers)
Abstract: Character roles are an important aspect of pretend play that lead to more successful social play opportunities in the future (Ozen, Batu, & Birkan, 2012). Behaviorally-based interventions have been effective in teaching children with autism appropriate play skills (Palechka & MacDonald, 2010). The purpose of this study was to compare script fading with video modeling when teaching a sequence of independent pretend play actions and vocalizations for one character role to children with autism. Script fading and video modeling have been compared to other interventions in the research such as pivotal response training (Lydon, Healy, & Leader, 2011) and social stories (Dudleston, 2008). Results compiled from studies utilizing video modeling or scripts have been compared (Sng, Carter, & Stephenson, 2014), however, these interventions have not been directly compared in single-subject research. A multiple baseline across participants with an adapted alternating treatment design was implemented. One character role was taught for two play schemes, each consisting of seven scripted play actions and vocalizations. Script fading and video modeling were effective in teaching all 4 participants a sequence of play actions and vocalizations for one character role.



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