Autism Spectrum Department of Special Education and Communicative Disorders

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Pamela Wolfberg, Ph.D., ProfessorHead Shot

Office: Burk Hall 273

Phone: 415-338-7651
Web: &

Office hours: click here for appointment scheduling


Educational Background

Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley-SFSU (1994)

M.A., San Fancisco State Unversity (1988)

National Diploma, Ludwig-Maximilians Universität,, München with Universität, Düsseldorf, Germany (1983)

B.A., Kent State University (1979)

Dr. Wolfberg is professor in the Department of Special Education & Communicative Disorders where she coordinates the Autism Spectrum Graduate Certificate (University-wide) and advises in the Mild-Moderate program (within the Department). She concurrently serves as faculty advisor for the Joint Doctoral program in Special Education with the University of California, Berkeley-SFSU. Her primary teaching responsibilities include graduate seminars focused on autism theory, research and practice, atypical child development and special topics pertaining to contemporary issues in the field.

Research Interests

Dr. Wolfberg's primary research interests center on the unique needs of individuals on the autism spectrum in the areas of socialization, play and imagination, and inclusion in peer culture. As originator of the Integrated Play Groups (IPG) model and founder of the Autism Institute on Peer Socialization and Play, she leads research, training and development efforts to establish inclusive peer socialization programs worldwide. She is further engaged in global outreach as a human rights advocate for the child’s right to social inclusion in play, recreation and cultural experiences. She is widely published and the recipient of several eminent awards for her scholarship, research, and service to the community.


Selected Grants

Project Common Ground: Preparing Highly Qualified Speech-Language Pathologists to Meet the Communication Needs of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders in Diverse Settings (2011 - 2016) Personnel Preparation in Special Education, Early Intervention and Related Services, US Department of Education, OSERS (# H325K110326) - Co-director with Dr. Betty Yu, SFSU


Integrated Play Groups: Promoting Symbolic Play, Social Engagement and Communication with Peers Across Settings in Children with Autism (2008-2013) Autism Speaks Treatment Award -Clinical ResearchProject Mosaic: Preparing Highly Qualified Educators to Meet the Unique Needs of Learners on the Autism Spectrum in Diverse Settings. Personnel Preparation in Special Education, US Department of Education, OSERS (#H325K060211) - Principal Investigator


Integrated Play and Drama Groups for Children and Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum (2009-2012) Transcooperative Research, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation with the Flora Family and Mendelson Family Foundations - co-PI with Dr. Henri Julius, University of Rostock, Germany


Project Mosaic: Preparing Highly Qualified Educators to Meet the Unique Needs of Learners with Autism in Diverse Settings (2006 - 2011) Personnel Preparation in Special Education, Early Intervention and Related Services, US Department of Education, OSERS (#H325K060211)


Selected Publications

Wolfberg, P.J. (in press) Lernen von Spiel und Beziehungen zu Gleichaltrigen: Integrierte Spielgruppen (Learning to play and socialize with peers: Integrated Play Groups) in V. Bernard-Optiz (book series) Autismus konkret: Lern- und Therapiemethoden in der Praxis (Autism Concrete: Learning and Therapy), Stuttgart, Germany: Kohlhammer


Balasubramian, L., Blum, A., & Wolfberg, P., (in press) Building on Early Foundations into School: Fostering Socialization in Meaningful Socio-Cultural Contexts, In R. Jordan, L. Robert, J., & K. Hume (Eds) Autism and Education: International Handbook, London, U.K., Sage Publications.


Bottema-Beutel, K, Turiel, E., DeWitt, M., & Wolfberg, P., (2017) To include or not to include: Evaluations and reasoning about the failure to include peers with Autism Spectrum Disorder in elementary students, Autism: International Journal of Research and Practice doi:10.1177/1362361315622412


Wolfberg, P.J. (2016a) Integrated Play Groups for children on the autism spectrum. In C.E. Schaefer & H. Kaduson (Eds.) Short-term play therapy for children (Third Edition) Guilford Publishers


Wolfberg, P.J., (2016b) Integrated Play Groups: Supporting children with autism in essential play experiences with typical peers. In L. Reddy, C. Schaefer, & L. File-Hall (Eds), Empirically-based play interventions for children (Second Edition) American Psychological Association.


Wolfberg, P., DeWitt, M., Young, G.S., & Nguyen, T. (2015) Integrated Play Groups: Promoting symbolic play and social engagement with typical peers in children with ASD across settings. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 45 (3), 830-845.(DOI) 10.1007/s10803-014-2245-0


Wolfberg, P.J. (2015). Play's role and meaning in the lives of children with autism. In D. Fromberg & D. Bergin (Eds) Play from birth to twelve: Contexts, perspectives, and meanings (Third Edition). New York: Routledge.


Dunn Buron, K. & Wolfberg, P.J. (Eds.). (2014) Learners on the autism spectrum: Preparing highly qualified educators and related practitioners (2nd edition). Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Company.(recipient of 2009 Literary Award, Autism Society of America)


Wolfberg, P.J. & Buron, K. (2014) Perspectives on evidence based practice and autism spectrum disorder: Tenets of competent, humanistic and meaningful support. In K.D. Buron & P.J. Wolfberg, (Eds.).Learners on the autism spectrum: Preparing highly qualified educators (second edition). Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC.

Wolfberg, P., (2013) Integrated Play Groups Model: How Parents Can Support their Children in Play Experiences With Peers, Autism Bay Area Magazine (Jan-Feb)

Wolfberg, P.J., Bottema-Beutel, K. & DeWitt, M.,. (2012) Including children with autism in social and imaginary play with typical peers: Integrated Play Groups Model, American Journal of Play. Vol 5, 1, Fall click here for article

Wolfberg , P.J. (2011) Sensory playground structures designed for children with autism: Creating equal access to inclusive play for All children. Autism Spectrum Quarterly.


Wolfberg, P.J. (2011). Die Bedeutung des Spiels fuer Peer-Beziehungen und soziale Inklusion in paedagogischen Einrichtungen fuer Klein- und Vorschulkinder (In B. Ytterhus & M. Kreuzer (Eds.) „Dabei sein ist nicht alles“ – Soziale Inklusion und Marginalisie-rung in integrativen Gruppen des Kindergartens – Eine Anthologie, International Buchprojeket, Universität Trondheim mit Hochschule Niederrhein. (English translation: The meaning of play for peer relations and social inclusion in pedagogical settings for young children: Being nearby isn’t everything – Social inclusion and marginalization in integrated groups within early childhood settings  – An Anthology)


Wolfberg, P.J. (2011-2012) Integrated Play Groups (IPG) model. In Lyons & Freilch (Eds.) Cutting-edge therapies for autism. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing Company.


Wolfberg, P.J. (2010). Peer play and the autism spectrum: The art of guiding children’s socialization and imagination (Integrated Play Groups Field Manual) Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Company. (Chinese Translation from 2003 edition)


Wolfberg, P.J. (2010). Play! A portal to new worlds. Inclusive play-The Outside Scoop, 2, 5 – 10. 


Neufeld, D. & Wolfberg, P.J. (2009). From novice to expert: Guiding children on the autism spectrum in Integrated Play Groups. In Schaefer, C. (Ed.) Play therapy for preschool children. Washington, D.C: American Psychological Association.


Wolfberg, P. J. (2009). Play and imagination in children with autism (Second edition) Teachers College Press, Columbia: New York.


Wolfberg, P.J. (2009) ¡A jugar! Incluyendo a los niños dentro del Espectro Autista en la cultura del juego con sus pares (English translation: Play! Including children on the autism spectrum in the culture of childhood), Paso a Paso, 07 Vol. 17.


Wolfberg, P.J. (2008) Including children with autism in the culture of play with peers. In C. Forlin & J M-G Lion (Eds). Reforms, Inclusion and Teacher Education: Towards a New Era of Special Education in Asia-Pacific Regions. Hong Kong University.


Bottema, K., & Wolfberg, P. (2007). Peer play and the exceptional child. Exceptional Family, 3. 15-17.

Wolfberg, P.J. & Schuler, A.L. (2006). Promoting social reciprocity and symbolic representation in children with ASD: Designing quality peer play interventions (p. 180 – 219). In T. Charman & W. Stone (Eds.). Early social communication in Autism Spectrum Disorders. NY: Guilford.


Wolfberg, P.J. (2005). Play! It’s more than just a button on the remote: Including children on the autism spectrum in the culture of childhood. Autism Spectrum Quarterly. 2, 8-12.


Wolfberg, P.J. (2004). Guiding children on the autism spectrum in peer play: Translating theory and research into effective and meaningful practice. The Journal of Developmental and Learning Disorders. 8, 7-25.


Boucher, J. & Wolfberg, P.J. (Eds.) (2003) Editorial. Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice. 7 (4) 339 – 346.


Yang, T., Wolfberg, P.J., Wu, S, Hwu, P. (2003) Supporting children on the autism spectrum in peer play at home and school: Piloting the Integrated Play Groups model in Taiwan. Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice. 7 (4) 437-453.


Wolfberg, P.J. (2003). Integrierte-spielgruppen: Förderung kommunikation und sozialen fähigkeiten bei autistichen Kindern. Forum Logopaedie.


Wolfberg, P.J. (2000) Making make-believe: Enhancing communication and social skills through Integrated Play Groups. Autism - Asperger's Digest, 3, 12-17.


Schuler, A.L. & Wolfberg, P.J. (2000). Promoting peer socialization and play: The art of scaffolding. In B. Prizant & A. Wetherby (Eds.) Language issues in autism and PDD: A transactional developmental perspective. (p. 225-227) Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.


Wolfberg, P.J. & Schuler, A.L.  (1999). Fostering peer interaction, imaginative play and spontaneous language in children with autism, Child Language Teaching and Therapy Journal. 15 (1), 41-52.


Wolfberg, P.J., Zercher, C., Lieber, J., Capell, K., Matias, S. G., Hanson, M., & Odom, S. (1999). "Can I play with you?" Peer culture in inclusive preschool programs. Journal for the Association of Persons with Severe Handicaps. 24, (2), 69-84.


Wolfberg, P.J. (1995) Supporting children with autism in play groups with typical peers: A description of a model and related research. International Play Journal, 3, 38-51.


Wolfberg, P. J, & Schuler, A.L. (1993) Integrated Play Groups: A model for promoting the social and cognitive dimensions of play in children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 23, (3), 467-489.


Selected Media Reports

Autism Show Podcast (December 9, 2014) 16: Dr. Pamela Wolfberg, Social Inclusion for Kids on the Autism Spectrum - Catherine Pascua

SFSU News (October 27, 2014) 'Integrated Play Groups' help children with autism --Jonathan Morales

See news feeds to this story below:

Ateno de Manila University News, Philippines (May 25, 2013) Play" Plays an Important Role in Growth and Development of Kids with Autism-- Paeng Evangelista-


San Jose Mercury News (May 14, 2013) The Rotary Club of San Jose is building a 4.1-acre play area that will be accessible to all, regardless of age or abilities--Dale Bryant


La Nacion Aldea Global, Costa Rica (May 5, 2013) Niños con autismo pueden mejorar comunicación, dice Pamela Wolfberg, experta en el tema - Irene Rodriquez -

Autismo ASPAU Perú - La Asociación de Padres y Amigos de Personas con Autismo del Perú (May 3, 2013), Niños con autismo pueden mejorar comunicación, dice Pamela Wolfberg, experta en el tema-