Functional Problem Solving

Functional Problem Solving Skills for Children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders

Funded by: U. S. Department of Education (grant # 84.024B60120) Charity Rowland, Ph.D., Principal Investigator Philip Schweigert, M.Ed., Co-Principal Investigator Dates: October 1, 1996- September 30, 2002


Young children with the label of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) exhibit a perplexing mosaic of skills and apparent deficits. Most of the literature on PDD has emphasized deficits in the realm of social development, communication and language-skill areas affecting the child's relationships wsith other people. Much less attention has been paid to the relationships that children with PDD have with the physical environment. The aim of this project was to examine the relationships that children with PDD have with the physical world, just as their relationships with the social world have been examined. Specifically, this project was funded to examine the relationships with objects exhibited by young children with PDD; to develop assessments of their object interaction skills; and to create instructional strategies for encouraging functional interactions with the physical environment as an avenue to both cognitive and social development. 

This project was an extension of research and demonstration efforts accomplished on two earlier projects through which we examined similar issues in children with multiple disabilities, including deaf-blindness. In this project, we adapted assessment instruments and instructional techniques developed through the earlier projects to help teachers and parents to address skill development in young children with PDD. The skills in question relate to their ability to use objects functionally, to solve problems that arise in the physical environment, and to use objects to mediate social interactions. This model demonstration project complements other educational approaches for children with PDD that focus primarily on social skill development.

Additional Information Related to this Project:

Overview of Project Results: Object Lessons
Final Report

Journal Article:

     Rowland, C. & Schweigert, P. (2009). Object lessons: how children with autism spectrum disorders use objects to interact with the physical and social environments. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 3, 517-527.