A Review of Play Interventions for Children with Autism at School

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Colleges, School and Institutes


Play is an important aspect of children’s development and its value to education has been widely explored. However, play in children with disabilities and especially children with autism may be restricted when compared to that of their non-disabled peers of similar age and abilities. Moreover, play has been neglected to a certain extent in school practice due to the focus many teachers place on academic attainments and the difficulty in engaging autistic children in play activities. Children spend most of their time in schools as opposed to attending interventions individually. School based research can improve the educational outcomes for autistic children and, therefore, there is a pressing need for more research to be conducted in school settings. The current literature review aims to: (i) identify empirical studies using interventions to develop play skills in autistic children at school, and (ii) explore the features of play skills targeted in these studies. A systematic search of two electronic databases: (i) PsycINFO, and (ii) Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) has been conducted between 2000 and 2014. Fourteen papers were collected and the findings suggest that a significant number of studies have been conducted in schools exploring a wide range of play skills. Strengths and limitations of the reviewed studies are given as well as implications for practice and future research. Conclusions are discussed in the light of the high ecological validity of real world studies and the need to bridge the gap between academic research and school practice.


Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Disability, Development and Education
Issue number1
Early online date8 Jan 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Jan 2016


  • autism, ecological validity, educational research, inclusive environments, play skills, quality indicators, school-based interventions, teachers, teaching staff