A play and joint attention intervention for teachers of young children with autism: A randomized controlled pilot study
The aim of this study was to pilot test a classroom-based intervention focused on facilitating play and joint attention for young children with autism in self-contained special education classrooms. Thirty-three children with autism between the ages of 3 and 6 years participated in the study with their classroom teachers (n = 14). The 14 preschool special education teachers were randomly assigned to one of three groups: (1) symbolic play then joint attention intervention, (2) joint attention then symbolic intervention, and (3) wait-list control period then further randomized to either group 1 or group 2. In the intervention, teachers participated in eight weekly individualized 1-h sessions with a researcher that emphasized embedding strategies targeting symbolic play and joint attention into their everyday classroom routines and activities. The main child outcome variables of interest were collected through direct classroom observations. Findings indicate that teachers can implement an intervention to significantly improve joint engagement of young children with autism in their classrooms. Furthermore, multilevel analyses showed significant increases in joint attention and symbolic play skills. Thus, these pilot data emphasize the need for further research and implementation of classroom-based interventions targeting play and joint attention skills for young children with autism. (author abstract)
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