Improving Peer Engagement of Children With Autism on the School Playground: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Mark Kretzmann, Wendy Shih, and Connie Kasari


This study aimed to test the effects of a psychosocial intervention, Remaking Recess, on peer engagement for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Using a randomized, wait-list-controlled design, the intervention was implemented during recess at four elementary schools. The immediate treatment (IT) group consisted of 13 (2 female) elementary school students with ASD and the wait-list (WL) group contained 11 (4 female) students with ASD. All of the children with ASD were fully included in the general education program. Analyses revealed that time spent engaged with peers was significantly increased for the IT group and maintained over the follow-up. School playground staff in the IT group showed increased behaviors aimed at improving peer engagement for children with ASD compared to playground staff at the WL sites. These improvements did not maintain to follow-up. These results suggest that a low dose, brief intervention can be beneficial in increasing peer engagement for children with autism in inclusive settings, but continued support of playground staff is likely needed.


On the Challenges of Implementing School-Based Interventions like Remaking Recess

A Tangled Web: The Challenges of Implementing an Evidence-Based Social Engagement Intervention for Children With Autism in Urban Public School Settings

Jill Locke, Anne Olsen, Rukiya Wideman, Margaret Mary Downey, Mark Kretzmann, Connie Kasari and David S. Mandell 


There is growing evidence that efficacious autism-related interventions rarely are adopted or successfully implemented in public schools, in part because of the lack of fit between the intervention and the needs and capacities of the school setting. There is little systematic information available regarding the barriers to implementation of complex interventions such as those addressing social engagement for children with autism.The present study used fieldnotes from an implementation trial to explore barriers that emerged during the training of school personnel and subsequent implementation of a social engagement intervention. A number of barriers at the individual (training) and school levels (policies surrounding recess, staffing, prioritization of competing demands, level of respect and support, and availability of resources) interfered with the continued use and sustainment of the intervention. We offer potential strategies to overcome these barriers and provide directions for future research in this critical area.


On the Importance of Recess

The Crucial Role of Recess in School

Council on School Health. (2013). Pediatrics 131183188.


Recess is at the heart of a vigorous debate over the role of schools in promoting the optimal development of the whole child. A growing trend toward reallocating time in school to accentuate the more academic subjects has put this important facet of a child’s school day at risk. Recess serves as a necessary break from the rigors of concentrated, academic challenges in the classroom. But equally important is the fact that safe and well-supervised recess offers cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits that may not be fully appreciated when a decision is made to diminish it. Recess is unique from, and a complement to, physical education—not a substitute for it. The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.