Using Interaction and Quantitative Analysis to Examine the Effects of Video Modeling on Play of a Preschooler with Autism



Play is a cornerstone of healthy development, a universal language for children to explore, learn, and connect with the world around them. Across cultures, it’s recognized as a fundamental right for all children. However, for some children on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) spectrum, engaging in typical play patterns can be challenging. Research suggests that play in children with ASD might be more characterized by repetitive actions, less imaginative themes, and often solitary interaction compared to typically developing children.


The Debate on Play-Based Interventions for ASD: Skills vs. Joy


Play-based interventions have emerged as a promising approach to support children with ASD. These interventions aim to enhance a child’s ability to engage in play, fostering social interaction, communication skills, and creativity. However, the focus has often been on developing specific skills that facilitate “normative” or “typical” play, potentially overlooking the core essence of play – the joy, spontaneity, and intrinsic motivation that comes with it.

This blog post delves into a recent study published in June 2024 titled “Using Interaction and Quantitative Analysis to Examine the Effects of Video Modeling on Play of a Preschooler with Autism”. The research explores the effectiveness of video modeling in promoting play behaviors in a preschooler with ASD, but with a unique twist. It goes beyond simply teaching scripted play steps and delves deeper into the child’s overall play experience.


Using Video Modeling: A Targeted Tool, But Not a Standalone Solution


The study employed video modeling, a technique where short videos showcase desired behaviors. In this case, the videos likely demonstrated age-appropriate play activities for the preschooler with ASD, such as pretend play themes, building with blocks, or interacting with other children. The researchers utilized a single-case multiple-probe design, meaning they observed the child’s play across different playsets (sets of toys or activities) before, during, and after the intervention.

Interestingly, the findings revealed that video modeling alone wasn’t sufficient to improve the child’s scripted play. This suggests that simply watching videos of desired play behaviors might not be enough for all children with ASD to grasp and implement those behaviors independently. However, when combined with in-situ modeling (modeling provided directly during play sessions by a therapist, caregiver, or peer), the child demonstrated progress in explicitly taught play skills. In-situ modeling allows for real-time guidance and scaffolding, which can be crucial for some children with ASD in learning and practicing new play behaviors.


A Multifaceted Approach: Unveiling the Nuances of Play


This research goes beyond just measuring outcomes. The study employed a mixed-method approach, combining visual analysis of play behavior with interaction analysis. This allowed researchers to gain a richer understanding of the child’s play experience beyond simply following pre-determined play steps.

  • Visual Analysis: Provided insights into the effectiveness of the intervention in terms of play behaviors. Researchers observed aspects like the duration of play episodes, the complexity of play structures built (e.g., simple block towers vs. elaborate castles), and the variety of toys used.
  • Interaction Analysis: Revealed five key themes that paint a more detailed picture of the child’s play experience:
    • Exploration and Experimentation: The child’s approach to exploring and manipulating toys during play. How did they engage with the toys in conventional or unconventional ways?
    • Object Use: Did the child utilize toys in ways intended by the manufacturer, or did they create their own unique play scenarios?
    • Engagement: The child’s level of focus and interaction with the play materials. Were they easily distracted, or did they demonstrate sustained attention during playtime?
    • Social Interaction: The child’s attempts to connect or communicate with others during play. Did they initiate interaction with peers, or primarily play alone?
    • Emotional Expression: The child’s emotions displayed throughout the play session. Did they exhibit frustration, joy, or a range of emotions during play activities?

By using this mixed-method approach, the researchers gained valuable insights that wouldn’t have been captured solely through quantitative methods like measuring the duration of play. This highlights the importance of looking beyond scripted play steps and considering the child’s overall play experience, including their emotional engagement, social interaction, and overall playfulness.


Looking Forward: The Value of Mixed-Method Analysis in Play Interventions


This research emphasizes the potential benefits of video modeling, particularly when combined with in-situ modeling, for enhancing play skills in preschoolers with ASD. It also underscores the significance of using mixed-method approaches to gain a more comprehensive understanding of a child’s play behavior. By incorporating interaction analysis alongside visual analysis, we can gain valuable insights into the child’s emotional engagement, social interaction, and overall playfulness during interventions. This knowledge can then be used to tailor interventions to address the child’s specific needs and preferences.


Beyond This Study: The Importance of Generalizability and Individualized Interventions


It’s important to acknowledge that this study involved a single participant. Further research with larger and more diverse samples from various backgrounds is needed to solidify the generalizability of these findings. However, this study adds to the growing body of evidence supporting video modeling as a potential tool for therapists, educators, and caregivers working with children with ASD.


The Road Ahead: Play-Based Interventions with a Holistic Approach


This research paves the way for further exploration of video modeling as a tool for play-based interventions. Here are some key takeaways for moving forward:

  • The Importance of In-Situ Modeling: While video modeling can introduce new play concepts, in-situ modeling provides crucial real-time support and scaffolding for children with ASD to learn and practice these skills.
  • A Focus on the Joy of Play: Play-based interventions should not solely focus on teaching scripted play steps. The emphasis should be on fostering a love for play, creativity, and intrinsic motivation.
  • Understanding the Individual Child: Utilizing mixed-method approaches like interaction analysis can provide valuable insights into a child’s unique play style, emotional expression, and social interaction during play. This knowledge can be used to personalize interventions and create opportunities for a more enriching play experience.


By incorporating video modeling, in-situ modeling, and a focus on the joy of play, we can create play-based interventions that cater to the individual needs of children with ASD. This, in turn, can empower them to experience the developmental benefits and pure enjoyment that play offers to all children.


Empowering Parents and Caregivers: Supporting Play at Home


While therapists and educators play a crucial role in supporting play development in children with ASD, parents and caregivers are equally important. Here are some tips for fostering play at home:

  • Create a Structured and Predictable Play Environment: This can provide a sense of security for children with ASD.
  • Offer a Variety of Age-Appropriate Toys: Rotate toys periodically to maintain interest and encourage exploration.
  • Demonstrate Play Activities Yourself: Show your child how to use toys and engage in pretend play scenarios.
  • Celebrate Efforts and Focus on Fun: The emphasis should be on enjoying playtime together, not achieving perfect play skills.
  • Consider Consulting a Therapist: If you have concerns about your child’s play development, a therapist can provide guidance and suggest personalized strategies.


By working together, parents, caregivers, therapists, and educators can create a nurturing environment that fosters the joy of play for all children, including those on the Autism Spectrum.



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