Children With Autism Favor Play With Sensory Component

(HealthDay News) – Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) prefer activities with a strong sensory component or cause-effect results, and avoid activities involving pretend play or arts and crafts, according to a study published in the July issue of the North American Journal of Medicine and Science.

Kathy Ralabate Doody, PhD, from the State University of New York in Buffalo, and Jana Mertz, MBA, from the Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, investigated the types of play most often preferred by children with ASD. Data were collected from 1,506 observations of children with ASD over a six-month period in a children’s museum. Data were aggregated for each of 20 different exhibits.

The researchers found that the top five exhibits favored by children with ASD were each characterized by strong and distinct sensory feedback features, cause-effect results, or repetitive motions. Pretend play activities and activities which focused on arts and crafts characterized the five least popular exhibits for children with ASD. There was a significant difference observed in 11 of the exhibits for children with ASD vs. that expected by a normal distribution. Of these exhibits, five were preferred more and six were preferred less than the expected average.

“Preliminary results of this research study support the researchers’ hypotheses that children with ASD prefer play activities with a strong sensory component and are far less likely to engage in activities involving pretend play,” the authors write.

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