Review of Interventions to Increase Functional and Symbolic Play in Children With Autism


Play is widely acknowledged to be an integral part of human development and children with autism often experience substantial delays in the development of play behaviors. This review updates older reviews by covering the last 10 years of research targeting functional and symbolic play in children with autism. The review differs from other reviews concerning play by including all conceptual models and intervention environments, while also limiting inclusion to studies demonstrating experimental control. Additionally, this is the first review of play studies to report results in quantifiable terms (e.g. PND). Studies are grouped into two categories (i.e. studies of functional versus symbolic play). Three components (i.e. modeling, prompting with contingent reinforcement, and child directed or “naturalistic” instruction) appear related to successful play interventions. The results of this review suggest that these components underlie the effectiveness of successful play intervention for children with autism.


Lang, R., O’Reilly, M., Rispoli, M., Shogren, K., Machalicek, W., Sigafoos, J., & Regester, A. (2009). Review of interventions to increase functional and symbolic play in children with autism. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 44, 481–492.