Prospective, Blinded Exploratory Evaluation of the PlayWisely Program in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
The purpose of the study was to explore a low-cost intervention that targets an increasingly common developmental disorder. The study was a blinded, exploratory evaluation of the PlayWisely program on autism symptoms and essential learning foundation skills (attention, recognition, and memory skills) in children with a diagnosis of autism, autism spectrum disorder (ASD† ), pervasive developmental disorder - not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome (AS). Eighteen children, 1 to 10 years of age, were evaluated using the Childhood Autism Rating Scale, Second Edition (CARS2); the PlayWisely Interactive Test of Attention, Recognition, and Memory Skills; Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC), and the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT). There were significant treatment effects for the PlayWisely measure on the yellow Sets that examine recognition; Purple Sets that examine brain region agility and early memory skills; Blue Sets that examine phonemic awareness and recognition; and for the Total Sets, with a similar trend toward improvement in the green Sets that examine perception and Red Sets that examine attention. No other measures reached statistical significance. The results suggest that PlayWisely can improve recognition, brain region agility, phonemic awareness, letter recognition, and early memory skills in ASD. It was observed by the parents, coaches, and study investigators that the children who were less than 3 years of age showed improvements in autism symptoms; however, the group was too small to reach statistical significance. Future studies are needed to see if this intervention can mitigate autism symptoms in very young children with ASD.