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Running Head: Integrated play groups

Integrated Play Groups: A model for teaching play to children with autism

Sarah Verheyden
31008071

EPSE 549- Seminar in Autism

University of British Columbia

April 9th, 2008

Integrated Play Groups
Impairments within the spontaneous development of reciprocal social interaction, play and imagination, and social communication are all characteristics found in the autism spectrum disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 1987; Wing & Atwood, 1987). These characteristics seen in children with autism impede their abilities to learn how to play and socialize with their peers. They spend inordinate amounts of time alone, and their play is typically desolate, ritualistic, and lacks social engagement, with high rates of manipulative forms of play and low rates of diverse functional play sequences (Wing, Gould, Yeats, & Brierly, 1977; Tilton & Ottinger, 1964; Sigman &Ungerer, 1984). Their peers can often misinterpret their unconventional manners of play, which frequently leads them into social seclusion (Wolfberg & Schuler, 1993). Children with autism despite opportunities to play do not naturally acquire socialization capabilities, without appropriate intervention, these children are at high risk for being isolated from their peer culture (Rutter, 1978; Strain & Cooke, 1976). Specifically, without playmates to share, diversify, adapt, and discuss play routines, their play will stay rigid and unimaginable (Wolfberg & Schuler, 1993). Increasing the opportunities for children with autism to become skilled in play with peers is important for social competence later in life (Stone & La Greca, 1986). Play has a wide range of social importance, including, cultural and developmental nuances (Vygotsky, 1966; Wolfberg, 1999; Wolfberg & Schuler, 1993). For children with social impairments, development and socialization can be foster through peer play in ways that the majority of adults cannot match through one-on-one intensive teaching. Children gather several fundamental skills that are essential for attaining social competence and forming meaningful friendship when playing with peers (Wolfberg & Schuler, 1993, 1999). Failure to imitate and comprehend social norms increases the likelihood of social isolation. Play intervention is a difficult area to embark upon through adult imposed teaching. Peer play is supposed to be free, spontaneous, and unshackled. However, traditional play interventions for children with autism are often either highly structured, or lack structure altogether (Wolfberg & Schuler, 1993). Highly systemized play programs may in fact discourage play because of the high demand for child responses rather than child initiations (Wolfberg, 1999, 2003).

Integrated Play Group Model
Theoretical Foundations
The integrated play group model (IPG) model draws from a variety of early research on the importance of play in child development. The IPG program is based on Vygotsky’s (1966) social constructivist theory, which states that play is a primary social and cultural activity through which children acquire symbolic capacities, interpersonal skills, and social knowledge. After Vygotsky, Rogoff (1990) expanded on his theory by suggesting that children can maximize their developmental potential with social partners through guided participation in culturally valued activity. The integrated play group model combines these theories to produce one systematized intervention program. Purpose

The integrated play group model was created by Pamela Wolfberg, and is designed to support children of diverse ages and abilities on the autism spectrum in play with their typical peers/siblings. An integrated playgroup is a group of children on the autism spectrum and their typically developing peers/siblings who regularly play together in a supportive environment under the supervision of a qualified adult facilitator. The purpose...
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