This article came from The American Journal of Play. It is not directly related to nature play but the strategies given to help children with Autism play with their peers can be applied to any setting and is worth the read. What I have added is the introduction to the paper. The link is provided to the Journal as well as directly to the article.
Peer-play experiences are a vital part of children’s socialization, development, and culture. Children with autism face distinct challenges in social and imaginary play, which place them at high risk for being excluded by peers. Without explicit support, they are likely to remain isolated from peers and the consistent interactive play that encourages developmental growth. This article focuses on the theory and use of Integrated Play Groups (IPGs), which offer a comprehensive, research-based intervention that helps children on the autism spectrum engage in play with typical peers in regular social settings. The article examines the nature of play and the developmental and sociocultural problems it presents for children with autism. The authors describe IPGs, focusing on their conceptual design and the interventional approach to them called guided participation. They highlight innovative uses of IPGs for older populations and discuss Integrated Teen Social Groups. They summarize research and development efforts and discuss the implications of IPGs for the future.
Key words: children with autism and developmetal
growth; guided participation; Integrated Play Groups (IPGs); Integrated Teen
Social Groups; peer play
The significance of peer-play experiences for children’s development,
socialization, and cultural participation has been extensively documented in
over a half century of research (Elkind 2007; Miller and Almon 2009). While
typically developing children need little motivation or guidance to play with
peers, children with autism encounter significant obstacles gaining equal access to and benefits from inclusion in peer-play experiences. Autism refers here to a broad definition of autism spectrum disorders, which includes severe, moderate, and mild forms as proposed for the future edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) due out in May 2013 (American 55 Psychiatric Association 2012). Children with autism face distinct challenges in social and imaginary play, which place them at high risk for being excluded by peers. Without explicit support, they are likely to remain isolated and thus to be deprived of consistent interactive play experiences that encourage developmental growth and meaningful peer relationships.
The Integrated Play Groups (IPG) model grew from a concern for the many children excluded from common peer-play experiences. IPGs support children with autism by engaging them in play with typical peers and siblings in regular social settings. With two decades of research and practice, IPGs have evolved, often shaped by new developments in the ever-expanding field of autism. The Autism Institute on Peer Socialization and Play (www.autiminstitute.com) advances IPG training, research, and development efforts. Recognized as one of the established best practices for children on the autism spectrum (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association 2006; Darling-Hammond et al. 2005; Disalvo and Oswald 2002; Iovannone 2003; National Autism Center 2009), IPGs have been widely used in regional, national, and international school and community programs. Originally developed for children in early and middle childhood (ages three to eleven years), IPGs are now being adapted for older populations by incorporating creative activities that are playful in nature and appealing to diverse age groups.
This article focuses on the theory behind the IPG model as applied to
children and as adapted for adolescents. We begin with an examination of the nature of play and the problems it presents for children with autism from developmental and sociocultural perspectives. We next describe the conceptual design of IPGs and the intervention approach (guided participation) for children. We highlight innovative extensions of the IPG model for older populations through Integrated Teen Social Groups (ITSGs). We conclude by summarizing the relevant research and discussing their implications.