Play Pals Story Time

Play Pals Faculty and Students

Play Pals Circle Time

The Departments of Communicative Disorders (Arts & Sciences) and Special Education & Multiple Abilities (COE) are in their second year of a collaborative partnership providing intervention and services to young children with autism in the community. Play Pals is an inclusive preschool program at The University of Alabama that implements the SCERTS Model, a research-based, multidisciplinary framework designed to promote social communication and emotional regulation in young autistic learners within semi-structured and supported peer interactions. The play-based and child-centered program provides intervention at low cost to the preschool students.

“The inclusive and multidisciplinary nature of this program are what make it unique,” said Dr. Laci Watkins, assistant professor and director of the autism graduate program in special education. “It allows faculty and students with different but complementary areas of expertise to collaborate in the implementation of evidence-based interventions to improve outcomes for children with autism.”

Play Pals also offers graduate students in both departments with valuable clinical and research experience, with students training to become speech language pathologists and special educators receiving hands-on training in implementing high quality, evidence-based practices. Play Pals is also supported by undergraduate students in the School of Music (Arts & Sciences), who provide music therapy sessions with the children twice a week.

Jennifer Baggett, communicative disorders clinical educator and director of Play Pals, added, “This program allows our graduate students opportunities to work with children with and without autism in a language enriched preschool environment. The program is mutually beneficial for both our graduate students and the preschoolers who attend Play Pals. The children are making significant gains in language, social engagement, and emotional regulation.”

Baggett, Watkins, Megan Fedewa (Play Pals teacher and doctoral student in Special Education), and Dr. Angie Barber (chair of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Samford University) have been invited by the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education to present on this innovative model at the state’s annual Early Intervention and Preschool Conference in Mobile this fall.

Contact: Dr. Laci Watkins

Contact:  Jennifer Baggett