Facilitating Peer Play for                                                    Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

The development of meaningful social relationships among children with autism and their typical peers is a frequently identified valued outcome for families. Yet, children with autism demonstrate marked challenges in their ability to establish joint attention, engage in pretend play and sustain their interaction with their peers—all critical components to the development of social relationships and friendship building. Dr. Patricia Prelock has been involved in intervention research in which she is using graduate student interventionists to support the peer interactions of young children with autism and their typical peers in the home setting. The home was selected as opposed to the classroom setting because Dr. Prelock is trying to capitalize on an environment where children with autism are familiar with their toys, have established routines and can practice their skills as play partners in a common context for children without autism. During this 15-week treatment study, interventionists learn to scaffold the play of children with autism and their typical peers, mediating and interpreting their play events, encouraging their joint attention, and facilitating their sustained engagement in play.

The Effects of Social Story Intervention on the Perspective Taking of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often experience difficulty understanding social situations, communicating effectively, and taking the perspective of others. A relatively new approach to help children with ASD behave more appropriately in social situations involves the use of Social Stories. Social Stories are short stories that explain to children how to behave more successfully in a social settings. Although much enthusiasm surrounds this approach, little rigorous research has been conducted in this area to date. In addition, no research has been conducted to explore the potential benefits of Social Stories for enhancing the perspective-taking abilities of children with ASD. Drs. Patricia Prelock and Tiffany Hutchins are co-investigating the effectiveness of Social Stories to help children with ASD 1) increase their appropriate communicative strategies, 2) decrease their inappropriate social behaviors and, 3) influence their perspective-taking abilities. As a large scale and experimentally-controlled study, this research involves the participation of several children with ASD and their families. The children and their families represent a diverse sample in terms of child characteristics and parents’ backgrounds. Both graduate and undergraduate students in the Department of Communication Sciences are collaborating with Drs. Prelock and Hutchins in this research. Our collaborative team works closely with the children with ASD and their parents in order to identify challenges that become the targets of our intervention. We also work to train students as effective and sensitive interventionists who are adept in data collection procedures, experimental design, transcription or data analysis. As a project that will span the next few years, we look forward to contributing to our knowledge of the effects of Social Stories for children with ASD.

Recent Books

picture of Autism Book

Autism Spectrum Disorders emphasizes the roles of communication, play, and social interaction in understanding and managing the needs of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

picture of Caring BookCaring For Children With Neurodevelopmental Disabilities And Their Families: An Innovative Approach To Interdisciplinary Practice presents a model multidisciplinary approach to care
--family-centered and collaborative--that has proven effective in practice. A pillar of the approach is recognition of the importance of performing culturally competent assessment and adjusting service delivery so that is responsive to cultural differences. Detailed case stories illuminate the ways in which the approach can help children with different backgrounds and different disabilities.

picture of Patricia Prelock

  • VT Summer Institute on Autism - June 21-25, 2010 at the Doubletree, speaker line up will be forthcoming