Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Special Education and Rehabilitation Counseling

Department name when degree awarded

Special Education and Rehabilitation

Committee Chair(s)

Thomas S. Higbee


Thomas S. Higbee


Sarah E. Pinkelman


Timothy A. Slocum


Amy Odum


Tyra Seller


Typically developing children learn from play. For example, play serves as a foundation for children to acquire early language and social skills. Children with autism tend to have deficits in play, and often engage in rigid or repetitive behaviors during play. Such rigid play behavior can limit opportunities for these children to learn from play. Researchers have shown that it is possible to increase the variety of play behaviors that children with autism engage in. But, research has not yet shown whether these gains in play behavior will transfer to other play environments and situations. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate methods for promoting the transfer of varied and appropriate play to other play situations with three children with autism. In this study, we increased varied play behavior by providing rewards for playing in a varied manner (and not providing rewards for playing in an inappropriate or rigid manner). We did this with multiple different play situations to help the participants learn to engage in varied play in different situations. We then tested to see if the participants would vary their play with completely new play situations. We found that, following some modifications, our procedures were successful at increasing varied play behavior for all three participants, and that their varied play transferred to other play situations.