Presentation Title

Buddies: A Structured Outdoor Play Curriculum in an Integrated Preschool

Highest Degree of Primary Presenter

Master's Degree

Presentation Abstract

Play is the natural context in which children with neuroptypical development (NTD) hone their communication and social interaction skills. It is precisely these key developmental areas in which children with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) present with deficits (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Early childhood education centers typically offer daily outdoor recess times in which children are given the opportunity to play outside (Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, 2016). However, the curriculum during recess is often unstructured and adult staffing is reduced. (Kasari, Rotheram-Fuller, Locke, & Gulsrud, 2012). This lack of a structured activity time, which could otherwise be used for focused treatment, lends to children with ASD experiencing difficulties engaging in play, due to engagement in repetitive and compulsive behaviors, and impulsiveness that may be more motivating (Peeters 1997; Veale 1998). Unstructured periods of time during the school day are missed opportunities for needed social skills treatment for children with ASD. This study, conducted in an integrated preschool setting across four age groups, examines if a structured, cooperative outdoor play curriculum with a focus on natural modeling and imitation, increases the rate that children with ASD are in proximity to typically developing peers, increases the number of social bids from children with ASD to peers with NTD, and increases the number of social bids from children with NTD to peers with ASD, in both outdoor recess and indoor free-play sessions. This study is currently being conducted, however it is hypothesized that children, both with ASD and NTD, will increase these defined behaviors.

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Buddies: A Structured Outdoor Play Curriculum in an Integrated Preschool

Play is the natural context in which children with neuroptypical development (NTD) hone their communication and social interaction skills. It is precisely these key developmental areas in which children with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) present with deficits (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Early childhood education centers typically offer daily outdoor recess times in which children are given the opportunity to play outside (Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, 2016). However, the curriculum during recess is often unstructured and adult staffing is reduced. (Kasari, Rotheram-Fuller, Locke, & Gulsrud, 2012). This lack of a structured activity time, which could otherwise be used for focused treatment, lends to children with ASD experiencing difficulties engaging in play, due to engagement in repetitive and compulsive behaviors, and impulsiveness that may be more motivating (Peeters 1997; Veale 1998). Unstructured periods of time during the school day are missed opportunities for needed social skills treatment for children with ASD. This study, conducted in an integrated preschool setting across four age groups, examines if a structured, cooperative outdoor play curriculum with a focus on natural modeling and imitation, increases the rate that children with ASD are in proximity to typically developing peers, increases the number of social bids from children with ASD to peers with NTD, and increases the number of social bids from children with NTD to peers with ASD, in both outdoor recess and indoor free-play sessions. This study is currently being conducted, however it is hypothesized that children, both with ASD and NTD, will increase these defined behaviors.