Behavioral Measures of Play Page: 2 of 12
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Kri'stin Gudmundsdottir og Shahla Ala'i-Rosales
within the behavioral field that monitors different types and dimensions of
play. It is important to have such a system in place for understanding the
complexity of play of children with autism and for gathering important
information on their play behavior in a quantitative way. This information is
essential for designing effective behavior interventions on play and thus
improving the functioning of these children.
When assessing and intervening on play within applied behavioral
practice, several aspects need consideration regarding the assessment
methods used, the children's play behavior and the context in which the
behavior occurs. First, precise measurement of behavior is essential for data-
based decision making (Cooper, Heron and Heward, 2007), with direct
observation of behavior most often the preferred method of assessment. It is
also important to consider the type of materials used and complexity of play,
that is different types of play. Also, the variety of play, that is the extent to
which the child engages in new or different play actions is an important
aspect that needs consideration. Furthermore, it is essential to select a
suitable recording system that is sensitive to differences in the play of
children at different skill levels as well as to changes in play behavior over
time. Finally, it is important to assess behavior in a setting typical for young
children and compare the play behavior of children with autism to the play
behavior of typically developing children (Guamundsd6ttir, 2001).
A review of the behavioral research literature indicates that most
intervention studies on play of children with autism have been conducted in
settings typical for and familiar to young children. However, few studies have
been conducted in a typical play area for children, with materials that are
considered to support different types of play and different levels of
complexity. Also, in none of the intervention studies were the materials used
during particular play actions recorded. This limits important information on
the child's play for assessment and intervention. Very few studies measured
complexity and variety of play, that is, the extent to which the child engaged
in new or different play actions. This is one difference between the play of
children with autism and the play of typically developing children. Also, very
few studies used frequency measures in their data collection, which are
considered more sensitve to changes in behavior over time than other
measures (Poling, Method and LeSage, 1995). Finally, none of the inter-
vention studies compared the play of typically developing children to the
play of children with autism (see for example, Jahr and Eldevik, 2007;
Guomundsd6ttir, 2001; Ingersoll and Schreibman, 2006; McDonald, Clark,
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Guðmundsdóttir, Kristín & Ala'i-Rosales, Shahla. Behavioral Measures of Play, paper, 2008; (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc77223/m1/2/: accessed February 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Public Affairs and Community Service.