International Meeting for Autism Research: Synchronization of Interplay In Children with Autistic Disorder and Preschool Teachers

Synchronization of Interplay In Children with Autistic Disorder and Preschool Teachers

Thursday, May 12, 2011
Elizabeth Ballroom E-F and Lirenta Foyer Level 2 (Manchester Grand Hyatt)
11:00 AM
A. J. Nordahl Hansen1,2, A. Kaale3 and S. E. Ulvund4, (1)University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway, (2)Child and Adolescent Mental Healt Research Unit , Oslo University Hospital , Oslo, Norway, (3)PB 26 Vinderen, Ullevaal University Hospital, Oslo, (4)Department of Educational Research, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
Keywords: Free-play, autistic disorder, preschool teacher, joint engagement, positive affect, object manipulation

Background: Joint engagement is associated with the ability to participate in social interaction, and is related to a vide range of developmental domains (Adamson & Bakeman, 2008; Bakeman & Adamson, 1984; Carpenter, Nagell, & Tomasello, 1998). More knowledge about within joint engagement in children and adults is needed. Some studies have investigated children with autism and their mothers in free-play settings (Gulsrud, Jahromi, & Kasari, 2010; Siller & Sigman, 2002; 2008). However, little is known about the interplay in dyads of children with autism and their preschool teachers.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to investigate how children with autistic disorder and their preschool teachers coordinate positive affect, expansion of objects, change of objects, and language within episodes of joint engagement. 

Methods: 60 children with autistic disorder (mean age= 48 months, range 29-60) and their preschool teachers were filmed during a 10 minute free-play session with a standard set of toys. The videotapes were coded for duration of joint engagement (supported joint engagement and coordinated joint engagement combined) according to Bakeman and Adamsons procedure (1984). Within joint engagement, frequency of children’s and preschool teachers’ positive affect, expansiveness, change of object, and language were coded.

Results: Correlation analyses showed that within episodes of joint engagement, preschool teachers and children coordinated their expansiveness (r = .45, p = .001) and change of object (r = .38, p = .001). However, the dyads did not coordinate their positive affect or language. Further analyses revealed significant negative correlations between preschool teachers positive affect and the children’s expansiveness (r = -27, p = .005), change of object (r = -29, p = .005), and language (r = -40, p = .001).

Conclusions:  The results of the study revealed an association between the behaviour of preschool teachers and children with autism during joint engagement. There was a significant positive correlation for object manipulation (expansion of objects and change of objects). In contrast, preschool teachers’ positive affect was negatively correlated with child behaviours meaning that less initiatives from the children was associated with more positive affect from preschool teachers. Maybe preschool teachers use positive affect as a mean to engage children in mutual activities. However, we do not know whether the preschool teachers are adjusting to the children’s behaviours or if the children are reacting to the preschool teachers’ expression of positive affect. Probably, the association can be explained by transactions between preschool teachers and children. More research is needed to understand these relationships between children with autism and adults. Knowledge about child-preschool teacher transactions has clinical implications, especially in enhancing social skills in children with autism.

| More