A comparison of the effects of structured play and facilitated play approaches on preschoolers with autism. A case study

Autism. 2002 Jun;6(2):181-96. doi: 10.1177/1362361302006002005.


This study compared the effect of structured play (SP) and facilitated play (FP) in promoting spontaneity and responsiveness in communication and play behaviors in children with autism. SP is characterized by the use of mass practice trials under the instruction of the experimenter while FP incorporated incidental teaching with multiple exemplars. Eight preschoolers participated in a crossover design of both play conditions. Gains in appropriate communication and play were observed across both treatments. Respondent communicative acts occurred more frequently across all participants during SP compared with FP. The preliminary results indicate an interaction between the mental age of the child and the teaching paradigm used. The need to match treatment goals and specific methods of the play intervention to the skill profile of participants is discussed.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology
  • Autistic Disorder / therapy*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communication
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Early Intervention, Educational*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imitative Behavior
  • Male
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Peer Group
  • Play and Playthings*
  • Practice, Psychological
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Facilitation*