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.


44th Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2018

Event Details

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Symposium #113
CE Offered: BACB
A Behavioral Approach to Targeting Play Skills
Saturday, May 26, 2018
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
Manchester Grand Hyatt, Seaport Ballroom H
Area: AUT/PRA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Nancy J. Champlin (ACI Learning Centers)
CE Instructor: Nancy J. Champlin, M.S.

Teaching children to play is an integral part of development because it sets the occasion for having social and communicative interactions with peers, increases the likelihood of learning in natural and inclusive settings, and offers flexibility to be used in multiple environments (Barton & Wolery, 2008). Children with disabilities are observed to engage in spontaneous play less often and demonstrate fewer varied pretend play behaviors than children with typical development (Barton, 2015). Jahr and Eldevik (2007) identify the acquisition of play skills as the barrier, rather than the production of play. Teaching children with autism appropriate play skills requires a systematic approach involving intentional, direct teaching strategies and explicit instruction. An examination of the various aspects of typically developing childrens play, including object of play, agent of play, vocalizations during play, and category of play, prompted the development of a systematic intervention to teach children with autism appropriate play skills. Play is an integral part of a childs development and should be an emphasis in behavioral intervention for children with autism.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): language, play skills, pretend play, social skills
Target Audience:

Professionals, BCBAs, BCaBAs

Learning Objectives: 1) Participants will learn the importance of teaching play and language simultaneously and be able to implement interventions targeting both 2) Participants will learn the 3 agents of play and be able to implement interventions with multiple agents 3) Participants will learn the 3 essential skills for sociodramatic play and be able to implement interventions targeting each skill 4) Participants will learn the 3 categories of play and be able to implement interventions with each category 5) Participants will be able to identify and implement a teaching sequence to target chaining play actions and corresponding vocalizations

An Evaluation of Typically Developing Children's Sociodramatic Play and Language Skills

NANCY J. CHAMPLIN (ACI Learning Centers)

Play is a child's work that captures their attention and interest. Play stands out as a distinct domain because of its systematic relationships with other developmental domains. Through play, children acquire various skills critical to their development including language and social skills. When looking at object play it has been identified that the diversity of object play is theoretically predictive of communicative word use, lexical density growth, and future language (Tomasello, Striano, & Rochat, 1995; Yoder, 2006). The long-term effects of an impoverished play repertoire are observed in social interactions later in life. McConnell (2002), discovered that children with disabilities spend more time in isolate play, make fewer attempts to initiate social interactions, are less likely to respond to the social initiations of peers, and spend less overall time engaged in direct interactions with peers. The purpose of this study was to assess the pretend sociodramatic play skills of typically developing children, ages 2–5. Typically developing boys and girls were video-taped playing in dyads in a designated play room with 15 different play schemes. Researchers coded and evaluated the play to identify variations in play across the age spans including gender differences, scheme preference, and abstract play.


Examining Independent Pretend Play Skills in Typically Developing Children


Research identifies a number of complex stages in the typical developmental sequence of play. Deficits in play are linked to poor social relationships, limited expressive language, and high rates of stereotypic behavior (Casby, 2003; Lifter, 2005). Early language development and symbolic play are correlated developmentally and are related in time, content, and structure (Casby, 2003). The purpose of this study was to assess independent play skills of typically developing children, ages 2–5. Each participant was video-taped for two 10-minute play sessions in an isolated room with 2 play schemes, 3 figures (e.g., dolls, action figures), and 2 abstract items. The play sessions were analyzed to identify differences in independent play across age groups, gender, and play schemes. Consistent with the results of this study, Case-Smith (2008) evaluated gender differences in play and identified that boys enjoyed simpler fantasy themes when compared to same age girls. Additional components were examined including the category of play, vocalizations during play, agent of play, abstract play, and advanced play.


Teaching Children Diagnosed With Autism a Chain of Play Actions and Corresponding Vocalizations

BAILEY BOSC (ACI Learning Centers), Melissa Schissler (ACI Learning Centers), Nancy J. Champlin (ACI Learning Centers)

Play in children with autism is often referred to as stereotypical and lacking in symbolic qualities and flexibility (Lifter, Sulzer-Azaroff, Anderson, & Cowdert, 1993). The purpose of this study was to utilize the developmental sequence of play and evaluate the effectiveness of teaching a series of 8 components to acquire the 2nd stage of pretend play: chaining play. Least-to-most prompting was used to teach a chain of 3 play actions and vocalizations to 4 children diagnosed with autism, ages 3-5. All 4 children were taught each chain of play actions across agent of play: self as agent, passive figure, and active figure. Advanced play was targeted in the form of rotating between play schemes and combining play schemes both independently and with peers. Lastly, the essential skills to sociodramatic play, initiating, responding, and expanding were targeted throughout the sequence. The outcome of this study demonstrated the efficacy of the 8 teaching components as steps to teach all 4 children a chain of play actions with corresponding vocalizations across agent of play and object of play, independently and with peers.




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