Structured Play Groups for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Critical Review

David Adams, PhD
Humboldt State University

Scott McNamara, PhD
University of Norther Iowa

Melissa Bittner, PhD
California State University Long Beach

Jill Pawlowski, PhD
Humboldt State University

Kelly Hangauer
University of Iowa


Delays in social and communication skills are associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Structured play groups (SPGs) was deemed an evidence-based practice (EBP) for children with ASD. A critical review of research published within the past 16 years and accessible in four databases was conducted with a total of 3,153 articles identified of which 15 were determined to have met inclusion criteria. A total of 163 participants from 3 to 12 years of age were reported on within the articles evaluated. Of the 15 articles, 12 implemented a single-subject design and 14 of the 15 interventions were implemented within the natural settings of the participants. Findings provide a fuller understanding of the efficacy of SPGs for children with ASD. Additionally, this review demonstrates positive results in a variety of settings, as well as an in-depth evaluation of the inclusion and training of the typically developing peers.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder, structured play groups, evidence-based practice, children, education

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