Objective. This study was designed to compare measures of pain when children with burn injuries were engaged in a purposeful activity, specifically a play activity, versus rote exercise.
Method. Two 6-year-old children participated in a study using a single-subject, randomized multiple treatment design to compare two conditions: purposeful activity and rote exercise. Data were gathered for each session on four dependent measures: number of repetitions of therapeutic exercise completed, number and type of overt distress behaviors displayed, scores on self-report scales of pain intensity, and overall enjoyment of the activity.
Results. Visual inspection of the graphed data suggested that, early in the rehabilitation process, the use of a play activity in comparison to rote exercise yielded better outcomes in terms of all four dependent measures. Additionally, the data implied that there may be a point later in the rehabilitation of a child with a burn injury when rote exercise may be as effective as play activities in meeting therapeutic goals.
Conclusion. This study supports the belief that purposeful activity can yield results equal to or better than those achieved using rote exercise. Replication of this study is warranted, and the development is indicated of a measure of overt behavioral distress that is more appropriate than those currently available for children with burn injuries.