To Develop the Sense of Activity Through Play in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Case Study in Early Childhood

To Develop the Sense of Activity Through Play in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Case Study in Early Childhood

Víctor del Toro Alonso (Complutense University of Madrid, Spain), Mónica Jiménez-Astudillo (International University of La Rioja, Spain) and Pilar Gutiez-Cuevas (Complutense University of Madrid, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2503-6.ch010


Play is an ideal tool for enhancing the development of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). It is important to know their possibilities and to develop play activities that permit the special educational needs of these children to be addressed in an adequate way. Therefore, a case study is presented with two children and a two-year follow-up period during which the authors observe which aspects the development has evolved and if it is possible to increase the sense of the activity in these children using play as an educational response. The results are accompanied by an in-depth interview with the teachers of the students over the two-year period. An improvement in areas of development is evidenced in the social, communicative, symbolic, and anticipation and flexibilization dimensions during the two years immersed in a play methodology, supported by the structuring of routines and task spaces. Also, an evolution of the sense of the activity and the development of functional play is observed.
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Play is an essential tool in the child's learning since it enhances all areas of development from a purely naturalistic perspective (Paya & Bantula, 2019; Navidi, 2016; Schreibman, Dawson, Stahmer, Landa, Rogers, McGee et al., 2015; Moyles, 2013; Del Toro, 2015; Bruner, 1983; Vygotsky, 1962). Moreover, it is key since it stimulates basic and higher psychological processes, such as perception, memory, attention, symbolization, creativity, planning and problem solving. Play also develops motor, emotional and social skills (Paya & Bantula, 2019; Del Toro, 2015; Moyles, 2013; Milteer, Grinsburg, & Mulligan, 2012; Parham, 2008; Grinsburg, Shifrin, Broughton, Dreyer, Milteer, Mulligan et al., 2007).

Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD, present a series of limitations relating to social and communicative competence as well as a characteristic mental and behavioral inflexibility. Thanks to Early intervention, and within this area play, a child with ASD can be equipped with a series of basic strategies to improve their limitations.

The objectives proposed for this case study are the following: (i) to describe and analyze the impact of a play based program on the development of the sense of agency of a child with ASD; (ii) to generate knowledge relating to early intervention in children with ASD; and (iii) to learn about the development of functional play in the cases under study.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Functional Play: This type of game is located within sensorimotor games and it is characterized by the search for the function of objects and people, to later show it in daily activities. In this activity, a large number of motor, manipulative and perceptual actions are launched helping to build body development and the handling of objects. This is the last step in accessing the symbol understanding.

TEACCH Method: It is a methodology created in the 70s by dr. Eric Schopler whose objective is to develop the social interaction and communication of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders. It is developed using a structured teaching of spaces, times and tasks that help the student to understand more easily the learning.

Early Childhood Intervention: They are a set of resources for the child, his family and the environment, which aim to respond as early as possible to the temporary or permanent needs of children with developmental disorders or risk of presenting them.

Symbolic Play: It is a play that appears in the development of children between 2 and 7 years old that consists of simulating actions, situations, objects or characters that are not in the development of the recreational activity.

Children With Special Educational Needs: Those students who, at some point of their schooling or throughout all of it, require a series of supports derived from conditions of disability or behavioral disorders.

Sense of Agency: It refers to the ability in generating an action with a clear purpose with its own body or with different objects. The child would use known learning schemes over new goals, to make sense of his actions. They are, therefore, actions where the cause and the effect are separated from each other and that their goals have specific achievements.

Play Development: From a Piaget position, there are three types of games in development: sensorimotor games, symbolic games and games with rules. Sensorimotor games cover the first two years of life. Within this activity the authors include sensory, manipulative, motor and functional play. Secondly, the authors find symbolic gaming characterized by the handling of the symbolic function from the game. This involves playing with symbols and combining them in the activity. Finally, the rule set is a more formal type of activity that is guided by a rule that players share.

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