Generativity deficits in pretend play in autism

C Jarrold, J Boucher, PK Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

132 Citations (Scopus)


Three studies are presented which test the claim that children with autism can engage in pretence under certain circumstances. Experiment 1 assessed the spontaneous and elicited play of 14 children with autism, matched on the basis of receptive language abilities to a group of 14 children with moderate learning difficulties. The children with autism produced significantly less pretend play than these controls, confirming previous findings. In contrast Expt 2 showed that the same group of children with autism were not impaired in their ability to carry out instructions thought to require pretend play. A third study compared the ability of 15 children with autism, and language-matched learning disabled and normal controls, to generate pretend acts. The children with autism produced pretend acts at a significantly slower rate than controls. It is argued, contrary to a meta-representational deficit account, that children with autism can engage in the mechanics of pretend play, but are impaired at producing pretence because of generativity problems. The extent to which a generativity deficit might be pervasive in autism is discussed.
Translated title of the contributionGenerativity deficits in pretend play in autism
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275 - 300
Number of pages26
JournalBritish Journal of Developmental Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1996


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