Parallel play is a type of play commonly observed in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and is characterized by children playing alongside each other without direct social interaction or active engagement with each other. Instead of directly interacting or sharing toys, children with autism engage in their own activities in close proximity to other children who are doing the same. Here’s a description of parallel play in autism:
1. Side-by-Side Play: During parallel play, children with autism often choose to play near their peers but do not actively engage with them. For example, they may sit beside another child while both play with their respective toys or objects.
2. Minimal Communication: There is minimal communication or social interaction between children engaged in parallel play. They may not exchange words, gestures, or eye contact with one another during this type of play.
3. Individual Focus: Children with autism tend to be absorbed in their own activities and interests during parallel play. They may not pay much attention to what their peers are doing, and they might not show interest in sharing or collaborating.
4. Repetitive Behaviors: It’s not uncommon for children with autism to engage in repetitive or stereotypical behaviors during parallel play. These behaviors can serve as a way for them to self-soothe or self-regulate.
5. Lack of Turn-Taking: Unlike cooperative play, where children take turns and interact, parallel play lacks the turn-taking and social dynamics seen in more interactive forms of play.
6. Comfort Zone: For children with autism, parallel play can be a comfortable and less overwhelming way to be in a social setting. It allows them to be around peers while maintaining a degree of independence and predictability.
7. Developmental Stage: Parallel play is considered a typical stage of play development in early childhood. However, in children with autism, it may persist longer or be more pronounced than in typically developing children.
8. Progression to Interactive Play: While parallel play is often observed in children with autism, it is not necessarily a fixed or permanent way of playing. With appropriate support and interventions, children with autism can progress to more interactive and cooperative forms of play, such as associative or cooperative play, where they actively engage with others and share play experiences.
It’s important to note that parallel play is just one aspect of a child’s social development and should be considered within the context of their overall development. Some children with autism may naturally progress to more interactive play as they grow and acquire social skills, while others may benefit from structured interventions and support to promote social engagement and cooperative play with peers.