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Autism Institute on Peer Socialization and Play
Integrated Play Groups® Training, Research and Global Outreach

IPG Model

What is the IPG model?
Integrated Play Groups® is a research validated* model originated by Pamela Wolfberg, Ph.D. in the late 1980's. The IPG model is designed to promote socialization, communication, play and imagination in children with autism while building relationships with typical peers and siblings through mutually engaging experiences in natural settings. Extensions of the IPG model include such innovations as drama, art, video, movement and other creative activities of high interest for a variety of age groups. The IPG model has been widely adopted by schools and community-based organizations at the local, national, and international level.

Guided Participation Schema

What is the IPG model rationale?
Research shows that peer socialization and play experiences are a vital part of children’s learning, development and culture. The IPG model was developed out of deep concern for the many children on the autism spectrum who are missing out on these essential experiences. Core challenges in social interaction, communication, play and imagination place children with autism at high risk for being excluded by peers. Social isolation further deprives these children of opportunities to meet their full potential to socialize and play. The IPG model maximizes each child’s developmental potential and intrinsic motivation to play, socialize and form meaningful relationships with peers. Equal emphasis is placed on supporting peers to be accepting, responsive and inclusive of children’s unique differences (see our partner Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society).

How is an IPG conducted?
An IPG brings together children with autism (novice players) and competent peer partners (expert players) who are led by a qualified adult facilitator (IPG Guide). Each IPG is individualized as a part of a child’s education/therapy program. Using sensitive assessments, IPG sessions are tailored to children’s unique interests, abilities and needs within a specially designed play environment. Play activities may include pretending, constructing, movement, interactive games, art, music, drama, video and other creative pursuits. Guided participation (systematic intervention inspired by Vygotsky and neo-Vygotskian Rogoff) is used to facilitate mutually engaging experiences that encourage increasing capacities for socialization, communication, play and imagination. Gradually novice and expert players mediate their own social play experiences with minimal adult guidance.

Who may participate in an IPG?
The IPG model was originally developed for preschool- through elementary-aged children (ages 3 to 11 years), and is now being adapted for teens and adults.  Groups are made up of 3 to 5 children, with a higher ratio of expert to novice players. Novice players include children of all abilities across the autism spectrum. Expert players include typical peers and siblings with strong social, communication and play abilities.

Who is qualified to deliver the IPG model as a program or service?
Qualified IPG providers include professional partners (organizations and individuals) who meet the minimum standards and requirements for an Integrated Play Groups® trademark license through successful completion of the advanced training IPG® Master Guide Apprenticeship program.

What are the benefits of the IPG model?
Based on award-winning research, the IPG model has been found to be effective in supporting a wide range of children representing diverse ages, abilities, socio-oeconomic groups, languages and cultures. Novice players have demonstrated generalizable gains in the development of social interaction, communication, language, representational play and related symbolic activity (writing and drawing). Expert players have benefited by showing greater self-esteem, awareness, empathy and acceptance of individual differences. Both novice and expert players have formed mutual friendships while having fun together.

*The following sources cite the IPG Model among established evidence-based practices for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

Wong, C., Odom, S. L., Hume, K. A., Cox, C. W., Fettig, A., Kurcharczyk, S., et al. (2015). Evidence-based practices for children, youth, and young adults with autism spectrum disorder: A comprehensive review. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. doi: 10.1007/s10803-014-2351-z (see also, National Professional Development Center on ASD)

Reichow B, Volkmar F.R.  (2010) Social skills interventions for individuals with autism: evaluation for evidence-based practices within a best evidence synthesis framework. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 40(2): 149-166. 

National Autism Center (2009). National Standards Project - Addressing the Need for Evidence-based Practice Guidelines for Autism Spectrum Disorders. National Autism Center Report.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (2006). Guidelines for Speech-Language Pathologists in Diagnosis, Assessment, and Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders Across the Life Span

Iovannone, R. Dunlop, G, Huber, H. & Kincaid, D. (2003). Effective educational practices for students with ASD. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 18 (3), 150–165.

DiSalvo, C. A., & Oswald, D. P. (2002). Peer-mediated interventions to increase the social interaction of children with autism: Consideration of peer expectancies. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 17, 198–207.

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