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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 51  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 96-101

Pretend play as a therapeutic modality to enhance social competence in children with autism spectrum disorder:A quasi-experimental study

1 Kovai Medical Center and Hospital, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India
2 KMCH College of Occupational Therapy, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India
3 KMCH Institute of Health Sciences and Research, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. N Rhema Anu
Occupational Therapist, Department of Occupational Therapy, Kovai Medical Center and Hospital, Coimbatore - 641 014, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijoth.ijoth_11_19

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Background: Social development for a child is the child's ability to approach others, get along with other children and their ability to manage a relationship with other peers. Play as an occupation allows the child to express who they are as a player and to socially interact with others. Such a recognized play for a child to develop important skills is pretend play. Children who do not imitate or initiate play are likely to have difficulty in some area of childhood performance that limits their ability to respond. Objectives: To explore the pretend play behaviors and to improve social competence through pretend play for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Study Design: A prospective, comparative, interventional, quasi-experimental study design was chosen for this research. Methods: The study included 42 children, aged 3–7 years of both genders, diagnosed with ASD, verbalizing a word or two productively for interacting. All the children were assessed using Child-Initiated Pretend Play Assessment and Communication DEALL Developmental Checklist for social skills, who were then grouped into experimental group with Learn to Play program and into control group who were under general play-based social skill training for 80–100 sessions within 6 months of the study period. Results: Nineteen children out of 21 in the experimental group showed the presence of typical indicators of pretend play. There was a significant improvement (P < 0.005, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.000–0.069) in pretend play skills and social skills of the children in the experimental group after Learn to Play program. Further, an improvement on the elaborate play and imitative actions of pretend play and social skills of the control group (n = 21) was attained by general play-based social skill training. However, the effect of pretend play in the experimental group (P < 0.005, 95% CI: 0.000–0.133) was more than that in the control group. Conclusion: Learn to Play program to develop and improve pretend play of children with ASD is better than the general play-based social skill training. The study thus concludes that pretend play is an efficacious therapeutic modality to enhance social competence of children with ASD.

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