Purposeful Play seen in an interest-based intervention package to increase peer social interaction in young children with ASD diagnosis: SOCIAL SKILLS INTERVENTION FOR CHILDREN WITH ASD DIAGNOSIS.

Research question:

This study aimed to determine if an intervention in which children with ASD diagnoses were engaged in structured activity sessions related to their personal interests with typically developing peers and provided instructions and modeling from a facilitator for those specific activities would increase those children interactions with their typically developing peers.

Research methodology

  • Participants:

The participants were four children with a diagnosis of ASD ranging from mild to severe (scores ranging from 30.5 to 50 at the Childhood Autism Rating Scale), and four peers developing typically. All the peers were females while there were both males and a female in the group of children with ASD. The eight children were between 46 and 62 months of age. All children were selected based on the teacher and support staff recommendations. They all used primarily the English language both at home and at school.

  • What do they do:

The study was conducted in an inclusive preschool classroom for both students with disabilities and typically developing peers. Each participant was paired with a typically developing student of a similar age. The dyads all engaged in both baseline sessions and intervention sessions. The baseline session consisted of 10 minutes of free play in the play area during which the students were allowed to use any toy or items available in the classroom.

The intervention sessions were organized around the participants’ interests and preferences. The researchers selected the participants’ interest that was most likely to be appealing for the typically developing peer with whom they were paired. During those sessions, the facilitator introduced an activity to the dyad and explained to the children that they were to engage in that specific activity during the session. The facilitator provided a demonstration of the activity to the children, modeled it and gave verbal explanation of the functioning for about 2 to 3 minutes. He or she would only intervene to answer questions asked by the children or to remind the participants and peers that they had to engage in that specific activity, if they demonstrated that they wanted to do something during the session. On the rare cases that problem behaviors occurred, the facilitator intervened in order to remind the children of the expected behavior in the classroom. During both baseline and intervention sessions, the children did not receive social skill instructions. The facilitator did not provide any prompt or reinforcement for their behaviors.

  • How are results collected:

The results were collected by special-education graduate students who were trained to collect direct observation data. The observers would note the frequency of initiations and responses by the participants, and would graph those data afterwards. As the session were recorded by video, the duration of the interactions was calculated by viewing those after the sessions.

What do the results say

The results indicate that the intervention is correlated with an increase in interactions with typically developing peers. This correlation also applies to the intervention generalization sessions, during which the participants had to participate in the intervention sessions with novel peers and in subsequent observations 6 weeks after the study was concluded. The changes in behavior that the children demonstrated, in the intervention sessions, were assessed by preservice teachers and considered to be socially significant. In the intervention sessions, it was observed that 3 of the participants initiated social interactions with their typically developing peers at a comparable frequency to the latter.

What are the conclusions

The authors concluded that the intervention package increases social interactions between children with mild to severe ASD diagnoses and typically developing peers. This increase is also generalized to novel peers and maintained after the study.

The authors suggest that for children with more pronounced social and communication deficits or delays, different strategies could be implemented to the intervention, in order to lead to greater increases in social interactions. For instance, the picture exchange communication system or direct peer trainings are both approaches that they mention could be investigated, in conjunction with the intervention package, could be investigated in future research. In addition, they specify that it would be important to incorporate activities that are not directly related to the participants’ interest in order to assess the generalization of the results to different contexts. The authors specify that they only assessed the quantity of interactions and not the quality, which is a limit of this study.

As the results apply to children with different diagnosis of ASD, this interventions could be efficient with children with various functioning and characteristics. In addition, the intervention is easy to implement in natural environment. Therefore, it would be accessible for teachers and other educators, whether or not they are trained to work with children who are diagnosed with ASD.


Kristin Hum February 12, 2019, 3:41 AM

**Validity of the Research** This research article published in 2018 **focuses on this decade’s most relevant question** in education about inclusion in the classroom, which recommends that students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and typically developing students **learn together in the same classroom**. However, research demonstrates that there is a lack of interaction and social acceptance amongst the students. Therefore, this research question is especially **valuable for teachers** who lack training and resources to better understand what is worth being implemented and how it can be done. **Research Methods** This study was performed on a **significantly small population of 4 students** with mild to severe ASD, which was appropriate due to the method of collected direct observation data. However, to make valid conclusions, the study would need to continue their research on other children with ASD. In addition, video clips were viewed by 18 special education undergraduate students to determine the social significance of behaviour change. The undergraduate students were not aware of the research’s purpose, **creating an objective view to the study**. However, the various videos were preselected shortened clips; the undergraduate students should have viewed the entire video to observe the child’s social behaviour from beginning to end. This would remove any subjective views imposed by the researchers. In order to bring objectivity to the research, the article uses the in the interobserver agreement calculated using the total-agreement approach. By providing the statistics for the **total-agreement approach gives credibility to the research**. In addition, this was calculated by graduate students who collected data independently. This method ensures that the graduate students are not influenced by their peers’ opinions, which strengthens the research’s results. The percentage for interobserver agreement were always significantly high (over 95%), which brought validity to the study. A **strength of this research is the transparency** with the data collection method and procedural fidelity. Furthermore, the sessions were conducted in a **natural setting** within the context of the **daily classroom routine**, which permits the participants to act comfortably in the environment allowing for more **realistic data**. The steps taken in the study followed a **logical order**; however, the interest-based structured play activities were never clearly explained, only one short example was given. The instructions and modeling given by the facilitator of the activity were not explained in detail. How did the teacher engage the intervention between the students? Due to the lack of specific examples of methodology, the study becomes unclear to its implementation. **The basic idea is there but a detailed process is not**; therefore, the reader who would like to apply this to their classroom cannot follow the steps of a model to further engage their students. **Results** The results are in line with the research question as data demonstrates that participant frequencies increased for initiation and responses during intervention. However, the article mentioned that not all sessions were available for coding **due to a technological error**, but the number of sessions lost was not mentioned. This is a weakness in the article as **fewer comparisons can be made between weeks and sessions**. As a result, the reliability of the test could be affected by the loss of data. Nonetheless, from the data, there is a large difference between the baseline and the intervention, which demonstrates that the research question is valuable and significant enough for further studies. **Conclusion** The conclusion of the study matched the results of the experiment, which were that the intervention method increased social interactions and interactive play between participants. The results are valid and prove the **need for more resources and training to be created for teachers**. Moreover, the **teacher’s feedback** in the conclusion develops a sense of **reliability and authenticity** to the article. This research article proceeds through the rights steps and the appropriate validation measures, but it is missing concrete examples for a more compelling and pertinent research article.

Alice Renaud February 12, 2019, 3:41 AM
Replying to Alice Renaud

**RELEVANCE IN EDUCATION FOR STUDENTS AND TEACHERS** The intervention package presented in this article demonstrates **great relevance to today’s education system**. While students with autism syndrome disorder (ASD) may exhibit social deficits, the objective of this study is to develop a package that would allow increased peer social interaction for students with ASD. As mentioned in the article, the **implementation of this intervention can easily be done without specialists**; therefore, this allows for teachers with low available resources to **carry out this package in their classroom with success.** Applied in a school setting, this intervention package is offered for inclusive classrooms with students with disabilities, such as ASD. Being a **recommended educational practice**, including students with ASD proves to be **beneficial for all members** in such inclusive environments. Throughout the article, it can be understood that not only students with special needs can bring something to their classroom, but also their typically developing peers can offer support for their development. In addition, the authors present the idea that teachers can apply not just one strategy at a time but rather mixing numerous interventions, which provide all students with opportunities to learn through **differentiated instruction.** **RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS** The results and conclusions from this research article bring forward the idea that students with special needs must be included in classrooms as a way of **fostering social interactions amongst all members**. As it is easy to implement in a student’s natural environment, the intervention package is therefore **accessible for teachers** who do not have the necessary resources or training to work with students with ASD. The article brings awareness to inclusive classrooms, as it highlights differentiation as **not always entailing major accommodations**. In fact, it can easily be done by naturally being implemented in a classroom through play. **PEER RECOMMENDATION** After exploring the ideas presented in this research article, we believe our peers and other educators should consider the implementation of inclusive education in their classrooms, as a means of **promoting acceptance and diversity**, but also a **safe space** where each and every child can learn. As the population of this research included only children ranging for the ages of 46 to 62 months, a future research idea would be looking at the **implementation of similar interventions with higher elementary school children**. By keeping this idea in mind, would it possible to have students, both typically developing and with ASD, work on collaborative projects with the aim of achieving similar results, being the augmentation of social interactions?

Alice Renaud February 12, 2019, 3:41 AM
Replying to Alice Renaud

Watkins, L., O’Reilly, M., Kuhn, M., & Ledbetter-Cho, K. (2018). An interest-based intervention package to increase peer social interaction in young children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 52(1), 132–149. https://doi.org/10.1002/jaba.514

Emily Roy February 15, 2019, 3:41 AM
Replying to Emily Roy

This article looks very interesting ! I really like the fact that the implementation can be done without the help of a specialist because it give the teacher a leeway to try and help these students even more. Also, I completly agree with you when you said that we have to promote acceptance and diversity in our classrooms. I think this is one of the first steps of inclusion in a classroom. The philosophical stance of the teacher about inclusion will influence the way the students think about inclusion and diversity. Good job for the review, it was complete !

Badriah Basma teacher February 17, 2019, 3:41 AM
Replying to Alice Renaud

Interesting. Good job

Vanessa Roy February 18, 2019, 3:41 AM
Replying to Emily Roy

Thank you for your comment, Emily ! We were also interested in the fact that the intervention can be implemented quite easily by teachers and educators. Finding accessible ways for teachers to help every single one of their students is a good way to promote inclusion and diversity in the classroom.

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