Teaching Cooperation to Children with Autism during Play



  • The article aims to examine the effectiveness of a multi-component intervention on cooperative behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
  • Cooperation is defined as joint actions by two or more individuals toward a shared goal, typically through reciprocal exchanges.
  • Cooperative behaviors are important for social skill development and friendship formation, but children with ASD often have challenges in reciprocal social interactions and cooperative play.
  • Previous studies have used various methods to teach cooperative play to children with ASD, such as in vivo or video modeling, and a packaged intervention called Buddy Game.
  • However, these studies have some limitations, such as small sample size, lack of generalization and maintenance, and limited types of cooperative play activities.
  • The present study aims to address these gaps by using a randomized multiple baseline design, a multi-component intervention, and multiple toy sets to teach cooperative play to children with ASD.




  • Participants: Three dyads comprising six boys aged between 4.5 and 7 years with ASD, diagnosed by qualified professionals and confirmed by the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-Second Edition (ADOS-2).
  • Setting and Materials: The study was conducted in a quiet room at a university-affiliated center. The materials included six toy sets (three familiar and three novel), each consisting of two identical sets of pieces for constructing models.
  • Dependent Variables: The dependent variables were the frequency and duration of cooperative behaviors, operationalized as verbal and nonverbal behaviors that indicated joint attention, turn-taking, sharing, helping, requesting, and commenting.
  • Independent Variable: The independent variable was the multi-component intervention, which consisted of four components: (1) prompting, (2) reinforcement, (3) interdependent group contingency, and (4) self-monitoring.
  • Experimental Design: A randomized multiple baseline design across dyads was used to evaluate the effects of the intervention. The experimental phases were baseline, intervention, maintenance, and generalization.
  • Data Collection and Analysis: Data were collected by trained observers using a tablet-based application. Interobserver agreement and procedural fidelity were calculated for 33% of the sessions. Visual analysis and randomization test were used to analyze the data.




  • The results showed that the intervention increased cooperative behaviors for all six participants, and the improvements were maintained after the intervention components were terminated.
  • Four participants in two dyads demonstrated generalization to three new toy sets. For the remaining two participants, the interdependent group contingency was reintroduced in order for them to demonstrate cooperative behaviors.
  • The randomization test confirmed the visual analysis results, indicating that the intervention had a significant effect on cooperative behaviors ( p < .01).




  • The discussion section highlighted the main findings and implications of the study, as well as the limitations and directions for future research.
  • The study demonstrated that a multi-component intervention was effective in teaching cooperative behaviors to children with ASD during play, and that the effects were maintained and generalized to novel toy sets for most participants.
  • The study also provided evidence for the social validity of the intervention, as the participants, their parents, and the staff members reported high levels of satisfaction and preference for the intervention.
  • The study contributed to the literature on cooperative play interventions for children with ASD, and suggested that cooperative play could be a useful context for promoting social skills and peer relationships in this population.
  • The study also acknowledged some limitations, such as the small sample size, the lack of a control group, the use of only male participants, and the limited types of cooperative play activities and partners.
  • The study recommended that future research should replicate the findings with larger and more diverse samples, include a control group or a comparison condition, explore other types of cooperative play activities and partners, and examine the long-term effects and social outcomes of the intervention.




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