An Approach for Enhancing the Symbolic, Communicative, and Interpersonal Functioning of Young Children with Autism or Severe Emotional Handicaps

Sally J Rogers, Jean M. Herbison, Hal C. Lewis, Jeanne Pantone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

85 Scopus citations


An intervention approach emphasizing development of symbolic thought, communication, and interpersonal relationships was Implemented with 26 children (ages 2 through 6) who had infantile autism, pervasive developmental disorder, or severe emotional handicaps. The main intervention strategy was the use of play in all its interpersonal, cognitive, and structural variety, imbedded in a reactive language environment. Over a six- to eight-month intervention period, the children demonstrated significant changes in several targeted developmental areas, including cognition, perceptual/fine motor, social/ emotional, and language skills. The cognitive complexity of their play skills increased significantly in areas of symbolic complexity, symbolic agent, and symbolic substitutions. Additionally, significant improvement in the communicative and interpersonal characteristics of their play was found. These changes support the efficacy of this approach with young autistic and severely emotionally handicapped children when the children's needs for high levels of structure, intensity, and consistency are met.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-148
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Early Intervention
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1986
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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