Behavioral approaches to promoting play

Aubyn Stahmer, Brooke Ingersoll, Cynthia Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


A variety of techniques grounded in behavioral psychology, and more specifically in applied behavior analysis, have been established to increase and improve play skills in children with autistic spectrum disorders. This article introduces a set of efficacious methods, which range from highly structured techniques to more naturalistic strategies. It focuses on object play as other authors in the issue discuss social play in greater depth. Behavioral techniques that are reviewed include: discrete trial training, use of stereotyped behaviors to increase play skills, pivotal response training, reciprocal imitation training, differential reinforcement of appropriate behavior, in vivo modeling and play scripts, and video modeling. A discussion of expanding behavior techniques to teach more complex play as-well as training in varied environments is also presented. References are provided to allow the reader to obtain more in-depth information about each technique.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)401-413
Number of pages13
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2003


  • Applied behavior analysis
  • Autism behavioral teaching
  • Naturalistic methods play

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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