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Autism: Using Play as a Way to Screen, Diagnose and Intervene on a Child’s Development


According to research autism is a developmental disability that is triggered and onset when a child is at the age of two developmental disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact. This means that no two people with autism will have exactly the same symptoms. A child can be screened for autism as early as 16 months. Some signs of a child with autism are trouble interacting, playing or relating with others, having very little eye contact, not pointing to objects in which want to call attention to, unusual or repetitive movements (spinning, hand clapping & tapping), delays in developmental milestones, playing with a toy that seem odd or repetitive and not exploring surrounding (child seems to be in their own world). Research also found that children with autism often experience a varying combinations of symptoms, while on a spectrum autism can appear anywhere from mind to severe. Also since 1975 the diagnosis of autism was one in 5,000 and today Autism is prevalent in one in 68 children however it is more prevalent in boys which is one in 48.  We do not know the cause of autism yet.  Scientist have studied whether autism is caused by genetic or environmental factors. Studies show that there is a 30% chance that if one child has been diagnosed with Autism, their sibling may be born with it as well. This doesn’t necessarily mean autism is past down from parent to child, indicating a genetic cause. Some studies have shown that children exposed to something (yet unknown) in the environment might develop autism.

Doctors are able to diagnose and start treatment for children with autism sooner because of new research. Children with autism who get a diagnosis early and start treatment immediately tend to have the opportunity to reach their highest potential.

Literature Review:

Over the years there have been many research on autism and the development of autism. Why are so many children being diagnosed and what caused a child to develop autism? Through various classes and the little that we know on autism, it is been said that it is not genetic. It is not a disability people are born with or can it be identified in the first year of a child’s life. Autism is developmental disability that is triggered and onset when a child is at the age of two. While looking at different articles they have something different to say about the new research that are being conducted on autism and its prognoses and diagnoses.

In one article which was also published this year states that research have shown that children develop autism because of neurons in the brain. In one study in particular it stated that “neurobeachin has been identified as a candidate gene for autism patients. Mutations in the synaptic adhesion protein cell adhesion molecule 1 are also associated with autism spectrum disorder” (Yasuko, 2015). This article also discuss about how proteins in the brain play a key role as factor for developing autism. So therefore through research scientist have found that there is some chemical reaction in the brain that is an onset for the development of autism. They believe that there is a connection during that point.

Another article spoke about how autism is developed due to mothers having caesarian section. It is stated that “delivery by caesarian Section is associated with a modest increased odds of ASD, and possibly ADHD, when compared to vaginal delivery. Although the effect may be due to residual confounding, the current and accelerating rate of caesarian section implies that even a small increase in the odds of disorders, such as ASD” (Curran, 2015). This article in particular lead me to thinking what is it with caesarian that can cause some children to develop autism and others do not. I begin to wound is it connected to medicine that is given to them that affects chemicals in the brain, and drain activity connection. Is it something in the child’s developing environment and the way they are being raised that riggers this onset at age two.

While this article focus in on how pediatricians are not conducting proper screening to diagnose autism. So there is research being conducted to see why screenings are not effective. They are contributed children not being properly screen to them not having access to pediatricians, depending on where they live. Pediatricians also face many challenges when having to diagnose children with ASD, they sometimes do not have much to fall back on when diagnosing because every case is different (Ip, 2015). Through proper screening and better insight on the development of autism, one can be properly diagnosed. However if people do not have access to medical doctors because of where they live or doctors are not fully aware of the disability then it will affect the screening. Since every case about autism is different once proper screening is doctors can begin to create markers to pinpoint the onset of autism.

While these three articles focuses on different aspects of autism development, some having more research than others. One thing that dawned upon me is what kind of screening is being done when doctors are diagnosing children with Autism. What are they looking into, this lead to our research question of how can children’s play behavior aide in the detection of autism? We decided to focus on this because we believe that there is not proper screening being conducted and this leads to children being misdiagnosed as well as children being not getting diagnosed early enough, due to many reasons. So as researchers we want to combine screening with the use of children’s playing as a way to intervene in the child’s development from early on in life.


ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) 

ABC (Antecedent Behavior Consequences) 

For our Method practice we chose to use two different observation methods. The first is the ABA method which stands for Applied Behavior Analysis. Which focuses on principles to explain how learning takes places. ABA is also used to bring out meaningful and positive behavior within children with autism. For example, using positive reinforcement. Giving a reward for repeating a behavior in which was shown. Using this method helps a child with autism want to repeat the behavior again. The second observation method is the ABC model. which stands for Antecedent Behavior and Consequences. During my research I came upon an article called “Observation Behavior Using A-B-C Data” by Cathy Pratt, PH.D & Melissa Dubie M.Ed. In the article the authors discuss how using observation behavior can help learn the pattern and functions of behavior in autistic children. A-B-C stands for Antecedent Behavior and Consequences. In which are the behaviors such as,  the events, action, or circumstances that happen, the actual Behavior and the action or response that follows the behavior.

For this observation We decided to observe two autistic twin sisters. Being that I work part time in a daycare where we have autistic students. I figure this will be the perfect opportunity for me & Sade to be able to observe. We decided to apply what we read in the article and refer it to the classroom to monitor the behavior between the two sisters. The behavior & fictions we were looking for were similarities in the way they responded to things and the differences between the two. We also were observing the way they handle following directions in the classroom. We decided to best time observe would be during play time (center time) in the classroom. The reason being because you get to learn a lot about children through play time. Our observation began at 10am and ended about 5 mins before 11am. We use two different charts to help us better observe the children and record our observation effectively.


Informed Participation: As a group we decide that we will discuss the purpose and method of our research. We will observe the behavior of children with autism in a classroom setting. We will use the ABA & ABC model to help us observe each child. Our study will show the effectiveness of using reinforcement behavior. Once all the parents of the participants are informed of what the study will consist of. We will gladly answer any questions or concerns they may have to better help them understand if this something they want to be a part of.

Voluntary Participation:

First we will have every participant parent sign a voluntary participant waiver form to ensure they agree for their child to participate. In no way we will force them to do so. Each participant will receive a brief background about the research and what it will conduct of. The reason being is that each parent of the participant gets a clear understanding as to why we are doing the study. All of this will be discuss before signing an agreement.

Confidentiality and Anonymity:

Each participate will receive a number during the study. In which we will refer to them as child 1, child 2 or child. If we have siblings such as twins they will be refer to them as twin A or twin b. This will help ensure confidentiality and to keep our participants as comfortable as possible.

Protection from Harm:

In our research we insure there are no risk or harm that will put any participant in danger. All data collect will be kept confidential and each participant will be refer to their name giving such as child 1 or if we have twins they will be refer to (Twin A or Twin B). Each child will be placed in a classroom. We will be observing each child behavior, when reinforcement is introduce how the child reacted & their interaction with other children.

Participation of Children:

In our research children with autism is our number one key to get a better understand of our research topic. Therefore we would go to a school(s) & find children within the autism spectrum. Of course their parents would have to be part of the research as well. We will need written consent from each parent to allow their child to participate in our study.


Researchers will collect and review all data from the study. Without any intentions of prejudice or unfairness. Once the study is finish the researchers then will discuss the different findings within each child. We will use the ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) And ABC (Antecedent Behavior Consequences) to help record our outcomes.

Data Security:

Only the researchers will have access to all the information and data collected during the study. To ensure this we will keep all data collected locked in a draw. In which me and Sade will be the only ones with the key to access the data.  All participant will be refer to their name and number giving (ex: child 1). We will only refer to each child by their assigned name. In the case a participant drops out or decides they don’t want to be part of the study anymore. Their information will be shredded.

Dissemination and Use of Research:

Our study will help parents and teachers have a better understanding on how to help reinforce the behavior of a child with autism. Play was great way to show reinforcement because parents don’t realize but there so much you can learn and help a child achieve through play. ABA & ABC models help you show positive reinforcement and help shape the behavior. In order to repeat the behavior with the encouragement of positive outcome


The observation went well. We were able to record enough information. Each twin was different and similar in many ways. The difference between the two sisters was Twin B was the twin who need more reinforcement to help shape her behavior.  During our time in the classroom the teacher try rewarding her with thing to help stop the many outburst she had. Where Twin A reacted to reinforcement well. She was able to sit when told to do so & move from center to center without have any melt downs. The similarities between the two sisters was they are both none verbal. Their form of communication was Twin A points were Twin B doesn’t know how to express herself so she has these outburst and melt downs to where she screams or cry at times. Another interesting thing we observe was Twin A kept no eye contact but Twin B was able to look into my eyes for a few seconds before drifting off. I will definitely use ABA & ABC method again because helped us learn how to better reinforce the behavior of a child with autism.

Data Analysis:


Our population of Interest will be school age children ranging from ages 3-5 mostly that are in a daycare setting. Our research group will be using a participatory approach because our children will be engaging in a play, in order for us to collect our data. To collect our sample we decide to go to a daycare in Coney Island. The reason being because Vannessa is employed there. It was easy to get the parents’ consent to observe their two twin daughters who are autistic. We decided to only observer two twin girls for reasons being we can compare and contrast from one another. It will make our research a little more interesting for observation reasons.


For our study site we will be observing autistic twin sister in which are 4 years old. When we first decide use the observation method we figure we will observe children in different age groups. Mainly two different children in different school to see the difference between the two. But then I knew it will be much easier to get the parents because of my relationship with them to agree with us observing them. I have an awesome relationship with the parents and they know wouldn’t do anything that will put their children in harm’s way.


Since 1975 autism is more prevalent in children. However we also found that boys are diagnosed more than girls. Research have also found that children can make significant gains in early language and social skills through early detection. See for our research we focused on using play, and through play you are able to direct a child who is autistic. While at Vannessa School and as we were observing both children when we told twin be to go to the play area and they didn’t want to go and started creating out bust it lead us to redirect that child. It could have been that the child was not comfortable going over to that side of the room, so what we did was went over to that child and work with them there, then after a while we will help them to transition over. You see autism is such a broad topic and there is so much that needs to be done in finding out the cause of autism. However we would like to help parents who suspect their child may be on the spectrum by using various techniques such as ABA model, checklist and play as a way to properly screen a child. Because like our research have shown us, the numbers 1 in 68 might still be inaccurate due to the misdiagnoses, so if we can include all of this we may not be able to find the direct cause of autism, but we can better screen our children’s.



Curran, E. A. (2015). Research Review: Birth by caesarean section and development of autism spectrum disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal Of Child Psychology & Psychiatry.


Ip, A. S. (2015). Factors influencing autism spectrum disorder screening by community paediatricians. paediatrics and child health.


Yasuko, K. A. (2015). Neuron Membrane Trafficking and Protein Kinases Involved in Autism and ADHD. Interntational journal for molecular science

By Sade P. and Vannessa F.

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