Playfulness in Children with Autistic Disorder and their Typically Developing Peers

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This study investigated the playfulness of 24 children with autistic disorder (AD) and 34 typically developing children aged 3-7 years, in free (unstructured) and adult-facilitated (structured) play conditions within a clinical play environment. Video recordings of play were rated using the Test of Playfulness (Bundy 2003). The data were analysed using repeated measures ANOVA and ANCOVA and qualitative observations.

The children with AD were less playful compared with the typically developing children (F = 49.64, p < 0.001), even when developmental age was accounted for (F = 28.20, p < 0.001). Both groups of children were slightly more playful in a structured environment with adult facilitation (F = 7.72, p = 0.007). Despite statistically significant differences in playfulness between play conditions, considerable overlap in observations for both groups suggests that this may not be as clinically meaningful. When developmental age was accounted for, the play conditions no longer had a significant effect on playfulness (F = 1.54, p = 0.220). The implications of the findings and the limitations of the study are discussed.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2006

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  • The British Journal of Occupational Therapy (BJOT) is the official journal of the College of Occupational Therapists. Its purpose is to publish articles relevant to theory, practice, research, education and management in occupational therapy internationally.

    BJOT publishes research articles, critical reviews, practice analyses, opinion pieces, editorials, letters to the editor, book reviews and an annual index. Please refer to the author's guide at

    Submissions can be made at

    The 2013 Impact Factor for The British Journal of Occupational Therapy is 0.897.

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