Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Dr. Letitia Naigles, Dr. Sumarga H Suanda, Dr. Sudha Srinivasan

Field of Study

Psychological Sciences


Master of Science

Open Access

Open Access


Object play provides a critical setting for early learning (West & Iverson, 2017). Previous research has established a role for context (i.e., type of activity and parent input), in shaping child touch behaviors. Although several studies have investigated the development object play, many miss key characteristics of everyday environments. Using data from the Longitudinal Study of Early Language (Naigles & Fein, 2017), we investigated how play is affected by development, parent input, and engagement in various activities across both typically developing (TD) children and children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We analyzed object prompts and independently coded moments toddlers touched and parents talk about the target of the prompt and other distractor objects. Results revealed that children with ASD touched objects for a lower proportion of time compared to TD children. Across all children, target touching was highest during toy bag, which elicited a pattern unique from all other activities. Across all activities, parents produced a higher proportion of target than distractor speech. Contrary to the parent responsiveness literature, we did not find a significant relationship between child touch and parent speech. These data underscore the value of understanding object play under more ecologically-valid conditions.

Major Advisor

Dr. Letitia Naigles