Play Time/Social Time Foundations

At the Specialpedagogikens Dag–2019, Eva Siljehag, Maria Gladh, and I gave a talk about the program Play Time/Social Time and there were some questions about how this program was developed. The Play Time/Social Time program is based on a long history of research about young children’s social participation and peer interactions. An early prominent researcher from the United States in the 1930s, Mildred Parten, documented the development of children’s play, which begins with onlooker and solitary play and develops into more social forms of play with peers. In the 1960s another group of US researchers, Willard Hartup and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota, studied the relationship of positive interactions with peers and social acceptance in the peer group. In the 1970s, Richard Shores and Phillip Strain highlighted the role of social reciprocity, that is turn taking in everyday play and interactions, in developing positive relationships with peers. They also pointed out that many children with special educational needs do not naturally learn the social skills necessary for being successful in social play. For those children, Dr. Strain designed a program called peer-mediated intervention, which taught typically developing peers in preschool classrooms helpful ways that they can play with children having special educational needs. Those play interactions help children with special educational needs to become more socially engaged and learning important social play skills. I was fortunate to have conducted research with Dr. Strain early in my career, and in Play Time/Social Time we have incorporated many of the important lessons learned from that research. These include:

  • Providing an introduction to peers about specific ways they can get their friends (with special educational needs) to play,
  • Having the teacher model the social play and then have the peers try out the play approach, 
  • Providing a brief play time in the classroom the only involves the special peer partners and the child or children with special education needs, and 
  • Having the teacher provide suggestions or scaffolding to the child when necessary but not to get to closely involved with the peer play (because then the peer and child with special educational needs will want to play with the teacher rather than each other).

These approaches are all part of the Play Time/Social Time program, which is now being adapted for use here in Sweden. 

Sam Odom, Visiting Professor at Stockholm University

Girls playing

Message From Visiting Professor Sam Odom

Hello, my name is Sam Odom and I am a visiting professor in the Department of Special Education at Stockholm University. I spend two months a year in Stockholm, one in the fall and another in the spring.  My other jobs are as a Senior Research Scientist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute and Emeritus Professor in the School of Education, both at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Also, I spend much of my time in San Diego, California, where I have an appointment as an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Special Education at San Diego State University.

While at Stockholm University, I have had the opportunity to work with faculty and students on several projects. You may have read on this blog about one of the projects that focuses on using the Play Time/Social Time curriculum in preschools here in Stockholm. Eva Siljehag, Mara Allodi, and Maria Gladh are the researchers working on this project.  Using the Play Time/Social Time curriculum and play activities, teacher introduce ways that children in preschools and their peers with disabilities can play together.  This curriculum was originally developed and tested by our research team when I was at Vanderbilt University and our collaborating team at the University of Minnesota. To give teachers a tool for assessing children’s social interaction, we developed a short rating scale called the Teacher Impression Scale (TIS).  Eva and Mara have translated it into Swedish and teachers report that it is an extremely useful assessment. The Play Time/Social Time curriculum was translated to Swedish with a grant from the Groschinsky stiftelse minnesfond.

In the United States, my other research, writing, and work with teachers focuses on practices that support the success of children and youth with autism spectrum disorders. This began with the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders and continued most recently with the Center on Secondary Education for Students with Autism.  Both of these websites have great resources for teachers.  One of the features is a set of online modules, called Autism Focused Intervention Resources and Materials (AFIRM) that provides information and resources to teachers about how they can use evidence-based practices in their classrooms. These modules are free.

In Stockholm I am also working with Lise Roll-Petterssen and Hampus Bejnö, who are running a research study on including preschool-aged children with autism in preschool settings. As part of that project, Hampus has translated and adapted for the Swedish culture an assessment called the Autism Program Environment Rating Scale (APERS).  Their work was recently published in an article in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.  He and Lise are using information from the APERS to work with teachers to provide a supportive inclusive preschool program for children with autism. 

In this next few weeks, I will describe more about the work we are doing in the United States and its potential applications in Sweden.