Exploring Behavioral Response to Behavioral Play Therapy in Children with Williams Syndrome

Danielle Zube, “Exploring Behavioral Response to Behavioral Play Therapy in Children with Williams Syndrome”
Mentors: Bonita Klein-Tasman & Brianna Young, Psychology

Williams syndrome (WS) is a rare genetic disorder caused by a microdeletion of genes on chromosome 7q11.23. Previous research has found that fears and anxiety are significant characteristics of children with WS (Dykens, 2003), often resulting in distress, dysfunction, and interruption to daily routines. This study is part of larger exploratory treatment development research, in which the goal is to develop and disseminate a play and humor-infused exposure therapy to address fears and phobias in children with WS. This Behavioral Play Therapy (BPT) approach is an outgrowth of the approach described for use clinically (Replays; Levine & Chedd, 2007) which our lab is currently empirically validating. In the current study, we are using a single case study to investigate relations between therapist approaches and child behaviors, including the moderating effect of type of exposure to the feared stimulus. Child and therapist behavior during three video-recorded therapy sessions at UWM will be coded using Noldus Observer XT. Although measurable change in child behavior was not expected after three therapy sessions in the larger study, pilot data from parental ratings of child fear and anxiety indicated the measurable improvement following the intervention weekend. Based on these previous findings, in this study we expect the BPT approach to result in a decrease in negative child behaviors and an increase in positive child behaviors over the course of the study, and for exposure infused with play and/or humor to be followed by decreases in negative child behaviors and increase in positive child behaviors. This case study has the potential to further support the approach of BPT for use with children with WS to address fears and anxiety and will be used as a model for coding the sessions from additional children in the sample.


  1. Hello! My name is Danielle and I am a senior studying Psychology here at UWM. I’ve worked in the Child Neurodevelopment research lab for three semesters and I’m so excited to share this research with you all!

  2. Danielle thank you for continuing and finishing your work despite a difficult semester. Your focus and diligence in getting your project done speaks highly of your motivation and focus.
    The last part of the narrative didn’t record but what you have is clear enough for us to understand. I would have loved to see/hear an example of some of the humor based roleplaying.
    Good effort Danielle and keep this up for the rest of your time at UWM.

  3. Congratulation on completing your undergraduate research project, Danielle! I thought your work was organized, clear, and interpreted well. I be interested to know more about the humor/play that took place in the sessions. Overall, great work!

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