Throwback Pub (2015): Intervention on the playground—engaging children with autism with their peers

Searching for time in the day to work on engaging children with ASD with their peers? Look no further than recess! Kretzman, Shih, and Kasari developed Remaking Recess, an intervention designed to teach adults how to engage children with ASD during lunch and recess.

The researchers taught 35 school playground staff at four schools (one-on-one aides, classroom aides, playground aides) strategies to promote engagement among 24 children with ASD and their peers. The intervention included teaching the paraprofessionals about:

  1. the relationship between peer engagement and social development,
  2. strategies to use to improve peer engagement, and
  3. how to identify activities that could be added to recess to maximize peer engagement.

NOTE: The sequence and content of the Remaking Recess training protocol is outlined in Table 2 of the paper.


What were the findings? After receiving the Remaking Recess training, the paraprofessionals demonstrated a significant increase in their use of the strategies AND the children with ASD (in grades 1–5) were rated as more engaged with their peers on the playground.

This school-wide intervention shows promise for facilitating meaningful and generalizable engagement in children with ASD in elementary school, but not without a few caveats. First, the children in the study were fully included in the general education curriculum. Adaptations may need to be made for children with ASD who are not included in the general education curriculum because they may have different needs. Second, the paraprofessionals’ responsiveness and strategy use did not carry over at the 10-week follow up point. The authors stress the importance of assessing paraprofessionals’ buy-in and motivation. As SLPs, we have knowledge and skills needed to support peer engagement, and to teach others about how to facilitate engagement inside and outside the classroom. However, we need to draw upon best practices for collaboration to make adult-mediated interventions like this one as successful as possible.


Kretzmann, M., Shih, W., & Kasari, C. (2015). Improving peer engagement of children with Autism on the school playground: A randomized controlled trial. Behavior Therapy, 46(1), 20–28.