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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Symbolic play training : who profits? Capreol, Kathleen Leigh


This project was intended as an initial step in evaluating symbolic play training as a viable means of promoting language development with young children with language delays (LD). The underlying assumption of this approach is that stimulating the symbolic function in one domain may in some way facilitate acquisition in the other. Given the reported theoretical and clinical relationship between symbolic play and language, this has been an intriguing possibility for some speech and language clinicians. This project was designed with two specific goals in mind: 1) To further describe the symbolic play abilities of preschool-aged children LD compared to their language peers, and 2) To compare the LD children’s relative abilities in symbolic play and in a nonsymbolic cognitive task (i.e., a block construction copying task). We reasoned that children most likely to benefit from symbolic play training should show evidence of a ‘symbolic deficit’. That is, they should demonstrate significantly poorer skills on symbolic tasks (i.e., language and symbolic play) than on nonsymbolic tasks (i.e., block construction). No significant differences were found between the groups on measures of symbolic play or block construction. However, distinct profiles were identified when each LD child’s performance was contrasted across measures of language production, symbolic play and block construction. Three children conformed to a profile consistent with a ‘symbolic deficit’. Interestingly, these children appeared to be at the very earliest stages of language; children with slightly more developed language did not appear to demonstrate a problem specific to symbolic function. Symbolic play training, as a means of remediating language delay, was not strongly supported. Suggestions for assessment and use of symbolic play as a context for language therapy are discussed.

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