Meeting Point: Latest From Lovaas

May 07

Meeting Point: Latest From Lovaas

Dynamic... Creative... Scripted Pretend Play

Play scripts are often an important component in teaching creative and spontaneous pretend play. Some people mistakenly believe that scripted responses result in robotic play however, research data indicate that scripted responses often serve as stepping-stones to spontaneous statements. For example, in 2001 Sarokoff, Taylor, and Poulson taught children with autism to engage in conversational exchanges using scripts that were faded over time. The children continued to engage in scripted conversation after the scripts had been removed, but they also added a number of unscripted spontaneous statements.1

Play scripts can be short or long, based on a child's current skills. Typically, the script starts out in a short form that the child can quickly learn. Once a child is successful with the interactions in the short script, additions are made to facilitate spontaneous and creative responses during the play.

1 Sarokoff, R. A., Taylor, B. A., & Poulson, C. L. (2001). Teaching children with autism to engage in conversational exchanges: Script fading with embedded textual stimuli. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 34, 81-84.

Below are some examples of play scripts. Some of them are classics. Others are more recent additions, based on the current interests of a few children. We hope these scripts can serve as a starting point in the development of your own pretend play scenarios.

Hair Dresser

Characters: Hair Dresser (HD), Customer (C)
Props: Rollers, Mirror, Make-up, Phone, Comb

  1. HD: Hi, come on in and have a seat
  2. C: Okay
  3. HD: What would you like done?
  4. C: I'd like to get my hair (curled)
  5. HD: Okay, (HD styles hair)
  6. C: I love it, thank-you
  7. HD: That will be $10
  8. C: (counts out money)
  9. HD: Bye, see you next time
  10. C: Bye and thank-you


Characters: Waiter (W), Customer (C)
Props: Menu, Pretend Food, Plates/Cups, Apron, Money

  1. W: Hi, welcome to my restaurant
  2. C: Hello
  3. W: Let me show you to your seat
  4. C: Thank-you
  5. W: Here's a menu. I'll be back to take your order
     (waiter walks away)
     (waiter comes back)
  6. W: What would you like to eat?
  7. C: I'd like (food) & (drink)
  8. W: Thank-you. I'll be back with your lunch
  9. W: (waiter comes back with food). Here's your lunch
  10. C: Thank-you. (customer eats food).
  11. C: Waiter, I'd like my bill please
  12. W: Yes, I'll be right back with it.
     (waiter brings the bill back)
     It'll be (amount)
  13. C: (customer counts out money and gives it to the waiter)
  14. W: Thank-you and come again.
  15. C: Bye-bye
  • Waiter brings the wrong food
  • Waiter drops the food on the floor
  • Customer asks for the prices of the specials
  • Vary the number of people in the party


Characters: Dentist (D), Patient (P), Secretary (S)
Props: Rubber Gloves, Mask, Dental Instruments, White Coat, Telephone, Table/Chair

  1. P: I have an appointment for 2 o'clock
  2. S: Have a seat. The dentist will see you soon
  3. D: Hi, I'm Dr. (name). Come in and take a seat
  4. P: Okay, thank-you
  5. D: Let's have a look. Open your mouth.
  6. P: (patient opens mouth)
  7. D: You have no cavities. Keep brushing
  8. P: Thank-you doctor
  9. D: See you in 6 months
  • Filling in cavities
  • Taking X-rays
  • Cleaning teeth

Post Office

Characters: Customer (C), Postman (P)
Props: Table/Chair, Stamps, Ink Stamp, Letter, Money, Mail Box, Pen/Paper

Customer writes a letter to a friend and puts it in an envelope. He then goes to the post office to mail the letter.

  1. P: Hi, welcome to the post office. How can I help you?
  2. C: I'd like to mail this letter to (location)
  3. P: Okay, that will be 55 cents
  4. C: (customer counts out money) here you go
  5. P: Thank-you, here is your stamp
  6. C: Thanks (customer puts stamp on the envelope).

Rude postal worker.

Tea Party

Characters: Host (H), Guest (G)
Props: Teddy Bears, Tea Set, Cookies, Juice

  1. H: Hi (child's name), come on in and have a seat
  2. G: Where should I sit?
  3. H: Come sit here by (teddy bear's name)
  4. G: What are we having?
  5. H: We're having tea and cookies (therapist pours tea)
  6. G: Thank-you
  7. H: Would you like cream and sugar in your tea?
  8. G: No, thank-you
  9. H: How many cookies would you like?
  10. G: I would like 2 please
  11. H: Would teddy like any?
  12. G: Yes, he would like 2 cookies also
  13. H: Here you go
     Everyone drinks their tea and eats their cookies
  14. H: Thank-you all for coming to my house for tea.
     Can you come again some day?
  15. G: Yes, I would love to. Thank-you


Characters: Doctor (Dr), Patient (P)
Props: Dr. Coat, Stethescope, Tongue Depressor, Fake Shot, Sticker

Patient is sitting in a room. Doctor walks in.

  1. Dr: Hi, I'm Dr. (name)
  2. P: Hi, I'm (name)
     (Dr. and Patient shake hands)
  3. Dr: How are you feeling?
  4. P: I feel sick
  5. Dr: Okay, lets have a look
     (Dr. puts tongue depressor near the patients mouth)
  6. P: aahh
  7. Dr: Okay, now take a breath
  8. P: (Patient takes a breath)
  9. Dr: Again
  10. P: (Patient takes another breath)
  11. Dr: Looks like you need a shot
  12. P: Will it hurt?
  13. Dr: Only for a second
      (Doctor gives patient a shot)
  14. Dr: You're all done
      (Doctor gives patient a sticker)
  15. P: Thank-you. Good-bye
  16. Dr: Good-bye


Characters: Civilian (C), Firefighter (F)
Props: Firefighter's hat, spray bottle, crayon drawings of fire

  1. C: "Oh no! There's a fire."
  2. F: "Don't worry, I'm on the way."
     (Make fire engine sounds and walk over to client)
  3. C: "Help, there's a fire"
     (points to crayon drawing)
  4. F: "I'll save you"
     (squirts crayon drawing with squirt bottle)
  5. C: "Help, there's another fire!"
     (points to another crayon drawing)
  6. F: "I'll save you"
     (squirts second crayon drawing)
     Continue until all fires are out.
  7. C: "Thank you Mr. Firefighter."
  8. F: "You're welcome."
  • Rescuing a kitty

Disney World

Characters: Parent (P), Child (C)
Props: blanket or small parachute, pillow

  1. P: Guess what kids?
  2. C: What?
  3. P: We're going to Disney World!
  4. C: Hurrah!
  5. P: Get in the car.
     Child and parent sit on the couch and
      pretend to drive to Disney World
  6. P: What would you like to go on (first/next)?
     Teach child a variety of different rides:
  7. C: Let's go on the monorail
  8.  (Child sits in middle of blanket/parachute.
     Parent says, "Ladies and gentleman, please
     stand clear of the doors. Doors are closing.
      Gather blanket together and spin child around slowly.)
  9. C: Let's go on Dumbo
  10.  (Child sits on pillow. Parent picks child up and turns
      in a circle. Child says "up" or "down" to make
     pillow go up or down).
  11. C: "Let's go on the race cars."
  12.  (Child sits on the pillow. Parent counts down
      and then races with child around the room.)
  13. C: "Let's go on the tea cups."
  14.  (Child sits on the pillow which is located
      on the blanket. Parent turns blanket and picks
      it up so that child and pillow fall off)

Polar Express

Characters: Conductor (C), Boy (B)
Props: blanket, paper ticket

Boy lays down to sleep. Conductor comes in making train sounds and opens blanket in the middle of the room.

  1. C: All aboard! Well, ya comin?
  2. B: Where?
  3. C: Why to the North Pole! This is the Polar Express!
  4. B: The Polar Express, hurrah! (Boy steps on train)
  5. C: Tickets, please.
  6.  (Boy reaches in pocket and hands ticket to conductor.
      Conductor pretends to punch ticket and then
      pulls blanket around room while singing
      a Polar Express song).
  • Include more from the movie: pretend to drink hot chocolate, visit Santa, get a bell

Dora The Explorer

Characters: Dora (D), Boots (B), Map (M)
Props: variety (depending on locations)

  1. D: Hola! I'm Dora.
  2. B: And I'm Boots!
  3. D: Where do you want to go today, Boots?
  4. B: Let's go to the (Gooey Geyser)
  5. D: OK, I wonder how we get there...
     Who do we ask when we don't know where to go?
  6. B: The map!
  7. D: Say map, say map.
  8.  Dora and Boots sing the map song.
  9. M: To get to the Gooey Geyser, first you go over the hill,
     and then you get to the Gooey Geyser.
  10. D: Do you see the hill?
  11. B: There it is!
     (Boots points to the hill. Dora and Boots
     walk over the hill.)
  12. D: Do you see the Gooey Geyser.
  13. B: There it is!
     (Boots points to the Gooey Geyser.
      Dora and Boots walk to the Gooey Geyser).
  14. B: We did it!
  15.   Dora and Boots sing the "We did it" song.
  • Include other locations on the way to the final destination
  • Have Swiper come and swipe something that has to be found

Do you have an experience with a creative format to typical programming? Share them with us here

The names of all children in this newsletter have been changed in respect for family confidentiality.

From the Editor

Thanks to all of those who have written to us in the past few months. This newsletter has been a constant balancing act. On one hand, we want to provide a newsletter that's accessible enough to those with only a little understanding of behavioral treatment. On the other hand, we want the information to be clinically and professionally rigorous.

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