How Play Benefits Autistic Children Essay
Autism results in several deficiencies in children that affect their educational and social lives. Autistic children feel difficulty to interact with their peers and they even cannot play individually (Sherratt and Peter p. 34). Relevant behavioral deficiencies are also found in autistic children if they have deficiency to play either individually or in group (Wolfberg, p. 23) and they feel difficult to socialize (Williams, Reddy and Costell p. 67-77). Types of Play
There are different types of play in which children are engaged such as soico-dramatic play, symbolic play and functional play.
In symbolic play, children use their imaginations to use any object as any other object that is not present. The object used in this type of play does not possess the properties of the object that is imagined to be present in place of the actual object (Libby, Powell, Messer, & Jordan, p. 487-497). Children use common things in their symbolic play to represent specific things such as they use sticks and imagine that they are using swords.
Where as, in functional play, children do not use imaginary things, rather they use things that are really useful for their play (Libby et al. , p. 487-497). In such a play, children may cook pretend food by using toy kitchen objects such as cooking utensils that are made from plastic for playing purpose. Children play specific roles in socio-dramatic play. They use particular themes to represent specific roles. Most common socio-dramatic themes are playing school, playing hospital and playing house in which each child is given a specific role to perform.
Autistic children find it hard to engage in such type of play because they do not feel comfortable in playing roles that require specific social cues, nature of pretending and language. There are different levels of playing. The child does not require any other child to play with in an isolated play. In this type of play a child plays gets involved in a particular activity and plays with an object with out the need of other children (Sherratt and Peter p. 58-74). Children involve in this type of play only when they are engaged with their favorite toy or object.
Autistic children play with an object or a toy in a way that is not common to that object or toy (Wolfberg, p. 78). An autistic child with lacking playing skills does not play with a car in a way that normal children do rather that child would prefer to spin the wheels of the car and would not move the car as normal children do. There is another type of play known as common focus or dyadic play. This type of play requires a child to play with another child. This type of play cannot be played in isolation (Sherratt and Peter, p. 76-95).
Usually two children get involved in this type of play. When an autistic child gets involved in this type of play, he or she is more likely to be closer to another child while play but he or she will not interact with another child. Three or more children get involved in group play (Mittledorf, Hendricks and Landreth, p. 63-86). Children involved in group playing usually play board games, non-team games that can be played in a playground. An autistic child does not get involved in this type of play as it requires social cues and peer interaction
Another example of play is team play in which a common goal is set to achieved and two or more groups compete with each other to achieve their goal (Mittledorf, Hendricks and Landreth, , p. 63-86). This type of play is organized either on a playgroud or in-house such as team tag, baseball, kickball and basketball. This type of play requires social interaction, rules of play to be followed and high level of activity and thus autistic children usually find it difficult to get involved in this type of play.
Some Play Strategies to Help Autistic Children Learn More Efficiently Educational decisions should be based on the individual qualities, skills and needs of every child. Autistic children should be considered in the same way. There are several factors that determine which intervention should be implemented by a teacher to teach playing skills to a child. These factors are the determination of the developmental level of the child, the language level of the child and the determination of the type of the play to be taught.
Developmental Readiness It is very important to determine the developmental level of the child before considering which intervention will be implemented for the child. This type of determination is very important for the children that are passing through their early childhood phase. Lifter et al. (1993) found out that it is very important to know the developmental level of the autistic child in order to select a play to teach preschool autistic children.
When children are involved in play activities that are appropriate according to their developmental level, they get involved in those activities very quickly and they do not spend much time to learn those activities. Children learn developmentally appropriate activities more quickly as compared to activities that are appropriate according to their age because at the same age, different children have different developmental levels that are necessary to know (Lifter et al. , p. 139-159). Different developmental objects are used to identify which activity is developmentally appropriate for a child to learn (e. g. , Broomfield p. 732-745).
The present level of functioning of a child determines which developmentally appropriate activity should be chosen regarding of the age appropriateness because the developmental level of every child is different. Some children’s level is more advanced so the activities and skills selected for them are different from those whose developmental level is lower than their age. Same thing goes to the autistic children whose developmental levels differ from child to child. Language Development
Stahmer (p. 123-141) observed the autistic children with the typical children when both types of children were involved in symbolic play. It was observed that both the groups were involved to an equal extent when their language abilities were the same. So it is advised to initially find out the language abilities and developmental level of autistic children when plan to teach play skills to such children. Mundy, Sigman, Ungerer, and Sherman (p. 349-364) found that language development is based on play skills.
The language abilities of autistic children can be developed during their play with other children. The autistic children learn different aspects of language such as they learn how to take turn, their behavior is related when they request for their turn, and they are involved in joint attention and other social interactions (Baranek et al p. 20-30). Peer Involvement Peer involvement matters a lot. Typically developing children can play a great role in engaging their autistic peers in appropriate play and positive activities (Blanc, et al p. 229-245).
There are different ways in which the typically developing children can be encouraged to engage their autistic peers in social activities such as programs for peer tutoring, Circle of Friends etc. Teachers can discuss with typical peers about autism through an informal method. In this method, teachers discuss with typical peers about the ways in which they should initiate their social interactions with their autistic peers and they are also taught that they should accept social initiations if made by their autistic peers.
If typical peers do not encourage social interactions in a natural setting then training programs are initiated for them. It is also found that group games with same age-group play an important role in increasing positive social interactions and appropriate play (Baker et al. , p. 300-308). The researchers also pointed out that natural setting plays a great role. So, it is advised in order to get successful generalization, the setting of group games should be kept as natural as possible. There are a number of games that can be played in groups on the playground such as tag, baseball etc (Baker et al. , p. 300-308).
Setting and Intervention Method Setting and intervention method are as important to consider as the type of play. Teachers should consider different types of setting when they are to select the settings to teach play skills to autistic children. There is a variety of appropriate setting for such a task including the classroom of autistic children or of typical children to give them general education, a day care setting, the home of a child, playground of the school or a local park or other areas where students can be engaged in playing.
Using Peer Trainers and Peer Models Blanc et al found that children usually make other children involve with them while they are playing. Children should be encouraged to play because when they play with each other, they learn social and behavioral skills through interaction. Children who do not feel comfortable in such interactions do not go through experiences that are essential for their development. Autistic children do not prefer to play with their peers and they hesitate to socialize but they also get involved in activities when integrated settings are provided to them.
This means that autistic children do not prefer non-integrated settings (Blanc, et al p. 229-245). Integrated classroom is essential when typical children are encouraged to interact with their autistic peers. Integrated classroom is useful only if an intervention is implemented, otherwise typical children would prefer to play with other typical children and they would not preferably interact with their autistic peers (Blanc et al p. 229-245). Goldstein et al.
also believed that social interactions among typical and autistic peers should be increased and for that purpose they developed a number of intervention strategies that were purely peer-mediated. The main purpose of those strategies was typically to bring typical and autistic peers closer by increasing social interactions between them. In this intervention strategy, typical children were taught how to initiate social interactions with their autistic peers and how to respond when their autistic peer initiate an interaction. This intervention resulted in an improvement in the social behaviors of autistic peers.
Autistic children are encouraged through this strategy to respond to any initiation made by typical peers. The social behavior of autistic children are also strengthened when they get a response from the typical peers (Goldstein et al. , p. 265-280). Group Games. The facilitation of play skills and social interactions can be increased by incorporating typical peers into games and activities with their autistic peers (Baker et al. , p. 300-308). Teachers can use the preferred topics of autistic children in which they can get involved easily to increase their social behaviors.
Baker et al. (p. 300-308) suggested that group games should be developed by asking the autistic children about their favorite topics. These groups are usually very common such as tag. Children are usually inspired by movie characters so teaches should ask autistic children about their favorite movie character and they should incorporate that character into the game. In this way, autistic children are motivated and they become interested in engaging with their typical peers through social interactions.
In tag game, the target autistic child and typical children are given instructions about the game and then they are encouraged to play the game. Baker et al. , found that social interactions among autistic child and typical children increase because the target autistic child is given more importance as he or she is the who has chosen the topic of the tag game, typical children become involved because they find a lot of fun in the tag game, and the target autistic child, as a result, gets motivated to increase his or her social interactions with his or her peers.
Integrated Play Groups Model. Integrated play groups model can be used as another effective method to increase the play interactions among the typical and autistic children. In this type of play, the children are provided with proper guidance, support, environmental arrangements (Wolfberg, p. 52). the setting of the play area is very important to consider. Children should be engaged in activities in places where children normally play. In such a setting majority of the children should be socially competent so that they are able to integrate their autistic peer easily and comfortably.
The environment of the play area should encourage play activity. The play area should be of a normal size, the materials should be arranged properly and the children should be able to access and organize the material easily (Wolfberg, p. 52). The play groups should be balanced. Wolfberg (p. 52) explained that all the members of the play groups must be familiar to each other, means that they are children who meet with each other regularly. The play groups may have children of different age groups but they should be socially competent.
It is very important to determine the competencies of the target child. This element is very important to consider when developing an integrated play groups model. With the help of this feature it will be easy for the teacher to find out how much and what type of support has to be given to the target child. In order to facilitate the group play, the target child should be given the opportunity to select what type of activity he or she wants to play and this thing will help the teacher to find out the developmental level of the target child.
Guided participation is also encouraged in this model. Children are guided by an adult how to involve in a play that will enhance their social behaviors. The adult should provide supportive guidance instead of directive one (Blanc et al pp. 229-245). The principle of immersion should be followed in this model, means that children should be fully immersed in the play. Through immersion, more experienced children help the less experienced children in learning their roles under the supported guidance of an adult facilitator (Blanc et al pp.
229-245). Conclusion As autistic children have to struggle for the development of play and social skills in them, the teachers should be aware of all the necessary methods that are useful to teach the autistic children the required skills. A teacher must be able to determine the developmental level, language level and peer involvement level of the target autistic child and then the teacher should design, select and implement strategies that will enhance the required skills in him or her.
The learning ability of autistic children also depends on the type of play and setting in which the activity will be initiated. The researcher can conclude at this point that play is very important in childhood as children learn from each others experiences. Autistic children need to be taught how to socialize in order to make them useful citizens and for this purpose it is very important to implement strategies that are necessary to fulfill this task.
Baker, M. J. , Koegel, R. L., & Koegel, L. K. Increasing the social behavior of young children with autism using their obsessive behaviors. The Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 23 (1998), 300-308. Baranek, G. T. et al Object play in infants with autism: methodological issues in retrospective video analysis. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 59(1) (2005), pp. 20-30. Blanc, R, et al Dysregulation of pretend play and communication development in children with autism. Autism, 9(3) (2005), pp. 229-245.