Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Special Education and Rehabilitation

Committee Chair(s)

Thomas S. Higbee


Thomas S. Higbee


Benjamin Lingugaris/Kraft


Sarah Rule


Charles L. Salzberg


Timothy A. Shahan


Children with autism often display deficits in social interaction, communication, and play. Unlike typical peers during free play with a variety of games and toys, they often do not initiate to others or engage in interactive game play for sustained periods of time. Previous research has demonstrated the effectiveness of script-fading procedures in increasing initiations and conversational repertoires for children with autism. However, these procedures were examined in arranged environments using an activity schedule or in structured settings. In addition, the role of the conversation partner has not been studied. The use of activity schedules has also been effective in increasing independence and decreasing adult prompts. In particular, the use of a joint activity schedule increased independent game play between preschoolers with autism. Therefore, the current study investigated (a) the use of script-fading procedures and the use of manual guidance to teach four preschool children to initiate game play during free play without the aide of an activity schedule. Second, the study examined the effects of scripts and script-fading procedures on (b) the frequency of interactions, (c) the conversation partner's interactions on participants' interactions, (d) generalization across stimuli and people, (e) maintenance, and (f) independent free play. Results demonstrated participants' play initiations, engagement, number of games played, and frequency of interactions increased, skills generalized across games and peers, and maintained. Furthermore, the number of prompts decreased, indicating script- fading procedures with manual guidance alone may be effective in increasing independent free play and initiations.