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Play Therapy

Play skills are foundational prerequisite skills for children with disabilities and crucial for child development, especially children who have Autism. Children who display traits of Autism may have behaviours of concern, regulation difficulties, sensory processing difficulties and play obsessions that inhibit the natural development of play skills.

Play Therapy has been around for several years and as its name suggests involves just that, playing. However, in play therapy, the therapist carefully guides and is purposefully led to incorporate opportunities of skill-building, problem-solving and increased language and accelerate communication.

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Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.


Fred Rogers

The benefits of Play Therapy

  • Improves social skills and reduces behaviours of concern.
  • Helps children who have experienced anxiety, domestic violence, depression and PTSD.
  • Encourage body awareness, self-control and resilience.
  • Increase communication and executive functioning.
  • Increase self-esteem confidence
  • Develop the core skills necessary for social interactions
  • Emotional growth.
  • Helps children adjust to significant life or family changes.
  • Assists with managing anger, sadness, worry, shyness and fear (improving self-regulation)
  • Play therapy can help children deal with grief and loss, anxiety and depression.
  • Help children become more receptive to limit-setting - increasing self-responsibility for their actions.

Skills which develop through Play Therapy

  • Controlling impulses
  • Problem-solving
  • Receptive communication skills
  • Expressive communication skills, requesting, naming, answering questions
  • Turn-taking
  • Coping and tolerance with denial
  • Following instructions
  • Concept development
  • Joint Attention

Play as a way of processing fears, anxieties, concerns and difficulties:

Play therapy provides an opportunity for children to sort through complicated feelings and communicate through play at their level and pace without feeling pressured or confronted.

In this area of play therapy, therapists can utilise non-directive techniques such as allowing a child to play and squish playdough as a form of stress relief. Incorporating play therapy as a non-directive approach allows the child to take the lead developing a safe place and helps build a trusting relationship. Strategies involving directional play such as asking the child to tell a story using puppets again initiate leadership and subtly invites them to speak of their worry.  

It may be hard to believe, but it is in our nature and an instinct to play. It's how we learn so many skills - from movement, through to language and communication skills such as direction, and expressing thoughts and feelings. By providing an outlet to express themselves, we give them strategies to improve their wellbeing and foster their sense of self.

Effective communication and strong liaison are important between parents, carers, therapists and child. And we ensure this is maintained so you can continue to learn new strategies for growth and containment of negative habits via phone calls and scheduled meetings. As your child grows, so too does the play therapy program makes sure no child slips through the cracks.

Key signs that play-therapy will benefit my child?

  • Has difficulty playing alongside or directly with others.
  • Has trouble playing independently, requiring adult interaction and guidance often
  • Has difficulty making and maintaining friends.
  • Difficulty in engaging in independent activities and occupying oneself
  • Consistently requires adult assistance to solve problems
  • Plays alone often
  • Engages in very limited or repetitive activities
  • Does not play appropriately or engage with toys appropriately and instead tends to throw them or tip them out
  • Fixated on television, computer or iPad tablet and disengaged with play materials

Play Therapy and ASD

Social skills and communication are two key areas of concern, children with Autism face. They may also have difficulty in problem-solving and may find it quite challenging and lack resilience when faced with adversity, stress or trauma. Play therapy aims to build upon these areas, supporting the child to interact more successfully within their daily environment. A wide range of strategies assist the child building upon important areas; key for future development as well as process and break down complex internal thoughts, feelings and ideas. Developing play skills can also help break down-play rigidity in the types of play materials engaged with and how implemented. 

Play therapy is crucial for advancing skills in particular Joint Attention and is found lacking in children with ADHD. Joint attention is a developmental skill which emerges in babies from 9 to 18 months of age. Joint Attention and Shared Attention share the same meaning and is the cornerstone of cognitive development. (Thinking for themselves, problem-solving and becoming socially aware). Joint attention is a common interest in the one object between two people. For instance, a non-verbal child can draw attention to something by looking, pointing or handing a toy to a parent or carer, so that it can be opened, referenced, picked up or utilised. It is a difficult skill to master because it involves coordinating two different skills at the same time - social interaction and action toward a shared object.

Because of the degree of difficulty in mastering joint attention, its believed to be a red flag for Autism if this skill has not developed by the typical baby/toddler milestone. It is one of the earliest forms of early social and communicative behaviour and a vital building block on which other core social and communication skills founded. Without Joint Attention skills, children with ASD have further difficulties engaging in positive interactions with their peers. By enhancing Joint Attention, however, we build on the child’s ability to take turns, share information with others, imitate others, follow instructions, play with toys in new ways and interact with others for long periods. 

Play Therapy and ADHD

ADHD Children may find it difficult to focus, such as listening, sitting still, forgetfulness, completing tasks, sitting still or become distracted easily and interrupting other speakers.

There are three types of ADHD: Inattentive - which as the name implies (difficulty focusing, listening, completing tasks). Its believed that girls more than boys fit into this category because they dislike disrupting the classroom environment. Hyperactive-Impulsive - impulsive and hyperactive behaviour are common behaviours including fidgeting, lack of patience (inability to take turns) and interrupting people when they speak. Some people with Hyperactive-Impulsive tendencies may find it a challenge to focus on tasks, but it is thought not to be usual. The most frequently diagnosed form of ADHD is Combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive. The most obviously presenting symptoms are inattention, impulsiveness and hyperactivity.

Unconsciously, simmering anger can fester and mount up, intensifying ADHD symptoms. Not knowing the reasons why they are angry and lacking the tools to process their thoughts does little to help, which is why play-therapy is so beneficial. In directed-play, they can relieve stress and feelings of frustration by squeezing, squishing playdough flat or banging on wood with a toy hammer. When a therapist identifies anger within a child, they can gently coax the child to process the feeling, uncover why they have that feeling and more importantly learn to let it go. Compounding these symptoms, children with ADHD often struggle with the Executive Function skillset. Executive Function targets three areas of the brain and comprises of working memory, flexible thinking and self-control. These functions promote decision-making, the ability to stay on task, perception, and organisational skills such as planning, prioritising and self-monitoring. An underlying condition of ADHD is Oppositional Defiance Disorder which could explain why some children with ADHD are impulsive, disruptive and may misbehave when faced with restrictions. Strategies are employed to help build on child tolerance, self-understandings and empowerment to tackle these difficulties and build skills reducing distractibility.

Play Therapy

Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.


Fred Rogers

Play skills are foundational prerequisite skills for children with disabilities and crucial for child development, especially children who have Autism. Children who display traits of Autism may have behaviours of concern, regulation difficulties, sensory processing difficulties and play obsessions that inhibit the natural development of play skills.

Play Therapy has been around for several years and as its name suggests involves just that, playing. However, in play therapy, the therapist carefully guides and is purposefully led to incorporate opportunities of skill-building, problem-solving and increased language and accelerate communication.

The benefits of Play Therapy

  • Improves social skills and reduces behaviours of concern.
  • Helps children who have experienced anxiety, domestic violence, depression and PTSD.
  • Encourage body awareness, self-control and resilience.
  • Increase communication and executive functioning.
  • Increase self-esteem confidence
  • Develop the core skills necessary for social interactions
  • Emotional growth.
  • Helps children adjust to significant life or family changes.
  • Assists with managing anger, sadness, worry, shyness and fear (improving self-regulation)
  • Play therapy can help children deal with grief and loss, anxiety and depression.
  • Help children become more receptive to limit-setting - increasing self-responsibility for their actions.

Skills which develop through Play Therapy

  • Controlling impulses
  • Problem-solving
  • Receptive communication skills
  • Expressive communication skills, requesting, naming, answering questions
  • Turn-taking
  • Coping and tolerance with denial
  • Following instructions
  • Concept development
  • Joint Attention

Play as a way of processing fears, anxieties, concerns and difficulties:

Play therapy provides an opportunity for children to sort through complicated feelings and communicate through play at their level and pace without feeling pressured or confronted.

In this area of play therapy, therapists can utilise non-directive techniques such as allowing a child to play and squish playdough as a form of stress relief. Incorporating play therapy as a non-directive approach allows the child to take the lead developing a safe place and helps build a trusting relationship. Strategies involving directional play such as asking the child to tell a story using puppets again initiate leadership and subtly invites them to speak of their worry.  

It may be hard to believe, but it is in our nature and an instinct to play. It's how we learn so many skills - from movement, through to language and communication skills such as direction, and expressing thoughts and feelings. By providing an outlet to express themselves, we give them strategies to improve their wellbeing and foster their sense of self.

Effective communication and strong liaison are important between parents, carers, therapists and child. And we ensure this is maintained so you can continue to learn new strategies for growth and containment of negative habits via phone calls and scheduled meetings. As your child grows, so too does the play therapy program makes sure no child slips through the cracks.

Key signs that play-therapy will benefit my child?

  • Has difficulty playing alongside or directly with others.
  • Has trouble playing independently, requiring adult interaction and guidance often
  • Has difficulty making and maintaining friends.
  • Difficulty in engaging in independent activities and occupying oneself
  • Consistently requires adult assistance to solve problems
  • Plays alone often
  • Engages in very limited or repetitive activities
  • Does not play appropriately or engage with toys appropriately and instead tends to throw them or tip them out
  • Fixated on television, computer or iPad tablet and disengaged with play materials

Play Therapy and ASD

Social skills and communication are two key areas of concern, children with Autism face. They may also have difficulty in problem-solving and may find it quite challenging and lack resilience when faced with adversity, stress or trauma. Play therapy aims to build upon these areas, supporting the child to interact more successfully within their daily environment. A wide range of strategies assist the child building upon important areas; key for future development as well as process and break down complex internal thoughts, feelings and ideas. Developing play skills can also help break down-play rigidity in the types of play materials engaged with and how implemented. 

Play therapy is crucial for advancing skills in particular Joint Attention and is found lacking in children with ADHD. Joint attention is a developmental skill which emerges in babies from 9 to 18 months of age. Joint Attention and Shared Attention share the same meaning and is the cornerstone of cognitive development. (Thinking for themselves, problem-solving and becoming socially aware). Joint attention is a common interest in the one object between two people. For instance, a non-verbal child can draw attention to something by looking, pointing or handing a toy to a parent or carer, so that it can be opened, referenced, picked up or utilised. It is a difficult skill to master because it involves coordinating two different skills at the same time - social interaction and action toward a shared object.

Because of the degree of difficulty in mastering joint attention, its believed to be a red flag for Autism if this skill has not developed by the typical baby/toddler milestone. It is one of the earliest forms of early social and communicative behaviour and a vital building block on which other core social and communication skills founded. Without Joint Attention skills, children with ASD have further difficulties engaging in positive interactions with their peers. By enhancing Joint Attention, however, we build on the child’s ability to take turns, share information with others, imitate others, follow instructions, play with toys in new ways and interact with others for long periods. 

Play Therapy and ADHD

ADHD Children may find it difficult to focus, such as listening, sitting still, forgetfulness, completing tasks, sitting still or become distracted easily and interrupting other speakers.

There are three types of ADHD: Inattentive - which as the name implies (difficulty focusing, listening, completing tasks). Its believed that girls more than boys fit into this category because they dislike disrupting the classroom environment. Hyperactive-Impulsive - impulsive and hyperactive behaviour are common behaviours including fidgeting, lack of patience (inability to take turns) and interrupting people when they speak. Some people with Hyperactive-Impulsive tendencies may find it a challenge to focus on tasks, but it is thought not to be usual. The most frequently diagnosed form of ADHD is Combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive. The most obviously presenting symptoms are inattention, impulsiveness and hyperactivity.

Unconsciously, simmering anger can fester and mount up, intensifying ADHD symptoms. Not knowing the reasons why they are angry and lacking the tools to process their thoughts does little to help, which is why play-therapy is so beneficial. In directed-play, they can relieve stress and feelings of frustration by squeezing, squishing playdough flat or banging on wood with a toy hammer. When a therapist identifies anger within a child, they can gently coax the child to process the feeling, uncover why they have that feeling and more importantly learn to let it go. Compounding these symptoms, children with ADHD often struggle with the Executive Function skillset. Executive Function targets three areas of the brain and comprises of working memory, flexible thinking and self-control. These functions promote decision-making, the ability to stay on task, perception, and organisational skills such as planning, prioritising and self-monitoring. An underlying condition of ADHD is Oppositional Defiance Disorder which could explain why some children with ADHD are impulsive, disruptive and may misbehave when faced with restrictions. Strategies are employed to help build on child tolerance, self-understandings and empowerment to tackle these difficulties and build skills reducing distractibility.

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Up to 65% of children with autism do not develop the skills to communicate effectively

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CONTENT UPDATED: OCTOBER 2020