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Teaching Play Activities To Preschool Children With Disabilities

KARIN LIFTER, BETH SULZER-AZAROFF, STEPHEN R. ANDERSON, GLYNNIS EDWARDS COWDERY

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The purpose of this study was to determine whether three preschool children with autism or autistic-like behaviors would learn and generalize pretend play activities targeted at two different play levels—a developmentally appropriate (DA) level and an age appropriate (AA) leve—-differently. The children's readiness for the DA play level was assessed with the Developmental Play Assessment (DPA) instrument (Lifter, Edwards, Avery, Anderson, & Sulzer-Azaroff, 1988). We taught individual exemplars from the two different play levels one at a time, to each of the children, in a sequential treatments design. In contrast to the consistently acquired DA activities, the activities of the AA category apparently were more difficult, and in most cases, they were not acquired. In addition, the children were less likely to generalize the AA skills to other activities or toys. The results are discussed in terms of (a) the importance of developmental considerations in selecting instructional objectives, and (b) the usefulness of directly teaching play activities to children with developmental disabilities.