Parental Scaffolding of Play in Children with Developmental Disabilities: Comparing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder


Julia T. Mattson, Hannah M. Mikus, Natalie H. Stagnone, John C. Thorne & Sara T. Kover3


Play is considered the ‘homework’ of childhood, where successful engagement in play behaviors promotes higher levels of executive function, self-regulation, and academic outcomes in typical development (Shaheen, 2014; Slot et al., 2015; Stagnitti et al., 2000; Yogman et al., 2018). Children with developmental disabilities often require increased levels of parental scaffolding to engage in pro-social behaviors, including play (DeVeney, et al. 2016; Van keer et al., 2019; Venuti et al., 2009). Specifically, in play with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), parents have been found to engage in developmentally matched or higher developmental play levels with their children as compared to typical peers (Freeman & Kasari, 2013).

While children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) experience challenges in social behaviors, including lower play quality (Molteno et al., 2010; Pearton et al., 2014), it is not known whether the level of parental play scaffolding for children with FASD differs from that for children with ASD. A better understanding of the way parents support their child’s developmental play level may help guide socially-directed interventions for these populations, particularly since improved play skills result in more positive social behaviors in ASD (Jung & Sainato, 2013). The current study investigated parental scaffolding in parent-child play in children with FASD relative to ASD, through a comparison of parent and child developmental play levels.

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