Using The PPLAC For Play With Our Learners

Play is important for all people in all grades. In the classroom, at a center, in the home, everywhere! Play is the best way for all learners to experience their world and connect with peers and adults within their environment. Did you know that play serves a purpose in all human development? It isn’t just to keep kids busy or occupied. In this blog post, I go in depth on the reasoning play is important for all grades. Play also doesn’t come naturally to all kids. Some of our learners require intensive teaching, just as if they were learning new academic skills. In this post, I will give an overview of the PPLAC and all of the ways it lays out a framework for teaching and expanding on play skills.

What is it?

PPLAC stands for Pretend Play and Language Assessment and Curriculum. This was created by two BCBAs (Nancy Champlin and Melissa Schissler). The book can be found here.

The PPLAC should be used to assess play skills and language acquisition for learners between the ages of 2-7. The book lays out a “behaviorally-based curriculum” to establish and expand on our learners’ current levels of play. The book summarizes studies between the years of 2008 and 2018. The data that the two BCBAs collected and analyzed played a large part in creating the developmental sequence of play and the implementation of the PPLAC. Reviewing research will help everyone involved have a better understanding why play is important and the different strategies and supports that can be used to help learners to succeed. The studies are listed below:

  • The effects of a play script on symbolic play
  • Verbal operants of typical preschool children
  • The effectiveness of priming to teach children diagnosed with autism generalized object substitution within play schemes
  • Teaching character role switches and play schemes combinations to children diagnosed with autism
  • The use of priming to teach children diagnosed with autism three essential skills during sociodramatic play
  • A comparison of script fading with video modeling to teach independent pretend play to children with autism
  • Assessing typical children imaginary play to more effectively program for children with autism
  • Teaching the foundational components of pretend play to children with autism
  • The use of playtubsTM to teach children with autism to expand appropriate play sequences
  • Teaching a sequence of play actions and vocalizations to a child using speech generating devices
  • Teaching children diagnosed with autism a chain of play actions and corresponding vocalizations

Resources to expand and supplement on lessons

  • Coreboards: Coreboards are visuals of common words used within language. Core vocabulary makes up to 80% of all words used in our daily interactions. These can be used and posted all around a classroom, home, or clinic so that they are accessible and used consistently. The vocabulary on a coreboard is general enough to be used for almost any activity. Gina shares a great post about how to create coreboards and fringe here. TAH coreboards can be found here.
  • Sentence strips: these are visuals of common phrases that will be used within a play scheme.
  • Peer models: peer models can be utilized by having your learner join a general education classroom or having the general education peers come to our learners in a more specialized program. The use of typically developing peers helps create friendships and model the behavior from a peer to peer interaction.
  • Video modeling: using videos of adults or typically developing peers around the same age is a great way to utilize modeling of skills that we want our learners to gain.
  • Autism social skills profile: this assessment is a great way to gauge a starting point on where we want to start the PPLAC.
  • TAH social skills rubric
  • Play boxes: these are boxes that have toys and visuals in a box. They are organized to make a grab and go activity with the use of strategies and supports needed for our learners to engage in, learn, and become independent in play schemes.
  • Cheat sheets: cheat sheets similar to this one are a great way to train team members and keep as reminders on what skills can be worked on while playing.

Where to start

Start with the full assessment. This will run through play targets and skills from all levels. After gathering baseline data, use that to drive instruction. Review the levels that the books lists out to find the most appropriate program sequence. Follow the pretend play and language curriculum within the book which clearly lists the strategies, materials, and play targets. Then, use the progress monitoring tools within to track acquisition and mastery.

This book is broken down in sequences that it is perfect for staff training which will also help with buy-in. it reviews target progression, where your learner is and where you want them to go, a prompting guide on what to do and what to say during play within each stage. It also lists out how to introduce targets, create a skill list, collect data, progress monitoring, and a quick reference guide!


  1. I was looking for the PPLAC book and was unable to find it on amazon. Do you know where else it would be available for purchase?


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