The New England Center for Children Achieves Breakthroughs in Language Development for Children with Autism by Teaching Them How to Play

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According to the New England Center for Children (NECC), playing is not just fun and games for children with autism. Teaching children with autism to play leads to improved language development and social skills. NECC, an autism school and research facility in Southborough, MA, is the only autism resource using the video modeling technique to teach children with autism to play.

Children with autism are not able to use toys appropriately or develop interactive play skills on their own. Instead of driving a toy car on an imaginary track and making vrooming engine noises as a typical child would, a child with autism might spend hours with the toy car upside down, spinning its wheels. The child with autism is not able to make the connection between the toy car and its implied use.

Video modeling helps to break down barriers that keep the child with autism from connecting with toys and playing. Experts at NECC say that, at the preschool level, the results of video modeling can be seen very quickly for children with autism, within as few as three sessions. The technique helps teach children with autism to engage in play in an appropriate manner by showing them a 1-3 minute scripted video model of play behavior and encouraging the child to mimic the behavior. After viewing the video, children are left to play with toys in the scripted manner. NECC uses toys that are age appropriate such as superhero action figures, Disney characters, Hotwheels cars, and pirate ships to encourage typical child behavior.

Once the child has learned to replicate the scripted play behavior, they can advance to play in imaginative and untaught ways and further their social development, including acquiring language skills.

Internationally recognized for its scientific approach based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis, NECC strives to be at the forefront of conducting and publishing research to further the understanding, treatment, and early intervention of autism and related disabilities. NECC is the recipient of the 2005 SABA Award for Enduring Programmatic Contributions to Behavior Analysis.

For more information on The New England Center for Children and the services it provides, please visit


Lorraine Marino/ Modern Creative Inc.

New England Center for Children



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