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Pretend Play Skills

One of the things that cause parents a lot of fear and pain is their child's lack of pretend play skills. This is usually demonstrated by a child who perseverates on playing with unusual objects, or develops a heightened interest in one or two objects. Many parents become broken hearted at witnessing such intense focus on objects. Large quantities of therapy time are sometimes spent attempting to modify such seemingly bizarre behaviors. This is not to say, of course, that all abnormal behaviors are twisted expressions of play, but that often such behavior occurs during times when typical children of similar ages would be engaged in play. Therefore, appropriate play skills may be the right behaviors to target to replace the unacceptable perseverative behaviors. Remember, successful behavioral plans include a strategy to replace the unacceptable behavior with an appropriate behavior, not just diminish the unwanted behavior.

Additionally, there is evidence that pragmatic language skills--the ability to use language in appropriate social contexts, are based upon symbolic skills that children exhibit during play (Westby, 1980). Please see our Play section under the main heading for more detail. Therefore, we suggest that an appropriate emphasis be placed on developing your learner's play skills. The question for parents and professionals is, then, how do we build appropriate play skills?

We have begun a collection of play scenarios that help you target specific developmental play levels. As always, please send in your ideas.