Jane Case-Smith; Systematic Review of Interventions to Promote Social–Emotional Development in Young Children With or at Risk for Disability. Am J Occup Ther 2013;67(4):395–404. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2013.004713
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© 2021 American Occupational Therapy Association
This systematic review synthesized the research on interventions used by occupational therapy practitioners to promote social–emotional development in young children (birth–5 yr) with or at risk for disabilities. After a comprehensive search of the research literature, 23 studies were reviewed and then synthesized into five themes: (1) touch-based interventions to enhance calming and parent–infant bonding, (2) relationship-based interventions to promote positive caregiver–child interactions, (3) joint attention interventions, (4) naturalistic preschool interventions to promote peer-to-peer engagement, and (5) instruction-based interventions to teach children appropriate social behaviors. The interventions for infants primarily involved coaching parents in specific strategies to promote positive interactions; interventions for preschool-age children typically involved encouraging peer support, instructing children, and applying naturalistic behavioral techniques to develop higher-level social competence. The studies demonstrated low to moderate positive effects for interventions used by occupational therapy practitioners to improve social–emotional development across ages, diagnoses, and settings.
The reported intervention could be performed by occupational therapists in various settings.
Articles were original scientific reports of studies in children ages birth–5 yr with a developmental delay, disability, or condition that affects development.
Articles were focused on evaluating the effects of the interventions in an effort to improve social–emotional development.
The outcome measures included social skills, social–emotional performance, or related behaviors.
Studies were categorized as Level I, II, or III evidence or as Level IV evidence in areas without higher level evidence.
Articles were published in peer-reviewed journals published in English.
Articles had been published since 1990.
Using modeling, coaching, and feedback, occupational therapists can promote infants’ social competence by enhancing parents’ responsiveness and sensitivity to the infants’ cues.
Effective strategies to promote joint attention include allowing the child to select and pace the activity, prompting and reinforcing joint attention, and using positive affect.
Small-group activities using technologies such as tablets or computer games can promote peer interactions.
Selecting toys and technologies that promote social interaction appears to encourage social participation.
Effective interventions to promote a child’s social skills include modeling of appropriate social behaviors, opportunities to practice with reinforcement, imitation of the child’s actions, waiting for responses, and designing positive natural consequences.
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