The Effects of Peer-Play Level on Initiations and Responses of Preschool Children With Delayed Play Skills

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Publication Date


Publication Title

The American Journal of Occupational Therapy


Occupational Therapy


The potential impact of peer-play opportunities on the overall development of young children has been welldocumented in the social development, occupational therapy, and special education literature. However, the effect of peer characteristics on the manifestation and facilitation of specific types of play roles and behaviors has received little attention. This topic is of key importance to occupational therapists who are striving to develop interventions that enhance the development of social participation and play in preschool children.

The purpose of this study was to examine the differences in initiation and response exhibited by preschoolaged children with social-play delays when participating in free-play dyads with peers of differing developmental levels. A single-subject alternating treatments design was replicated across five preschool-aged children with developmental play delays. Each child was paired with one peer who had lower developmental play skills and one peer who had higher developmental play skills. The arranged dyads were given the opportunity to play together in a specially designed playroom at their school. Their interactions were videotaped and later coded. All five children generally showed more initiation and response to initiation during play with higherlevel peers, although one participant showed less differentiation for initiation than the other four children. An occupational therapist working with a preschool child with play delays and wanting to facilitate the child’s initiation and response in play situations should consider pairing the child with play delays with a child who has higher play skills.