Promoting play in low-functioning children with autism though video modelling
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One of the most significant impairments in children with autism is their inability to play. This study explores the efficacy of using video modelling to teach functional and symbolic play behaviours to two low-functioning children with autism in comparison to a group of nine normally developing children. The two groups of children were shown the videotape, modelling behaviours for seven toys, over a period of three weeks and were tested with at the end of each week. Ability to generalise and ability to maintain behaviours acquired was also tested. Our results show that video modelling was a highly effective way of teaching play behaviours to normally developing children. Results are less clear for the autistic participants. One of our autistic participants, WH, was able to acquire behaviours from the videotape, and was able to maintain those behaviours he learned. His spontaneous use of signed language adds greatly to the efficacy of using video modelling as an intervention. Video modelling appears to have been less effective with our second autistic participant, JS. He did not acquire play behaviours during the initial three weeks of testing or the follow-up with the original set of toys. However, with the ‘generalisation’ set of toys, he showed that he had acquired play behaviours and that with this set they could be maintained one month later. Video modelling shows potential as an effective way for teaching play behaviours, and these findings are discussed in the context of a number of theories regarding the deficit in play.