Some of the main issues faced by children with autism are their difficulties with social interactions and communication. Play therapy for autism is a tool that can help children to develop the skills of communication and intrapersonal interaction and can also help in improving the motor functioning of children with autism. It helps them to become themselves and can also be a tool for parents to learn to relate to their child on the autism spectrum.
What is Play Therapy?
Play therapy can be defined as a form of psychotherapy in which play becomes a tool for helping children to express and communicate their feelings. Children with autism can improve their social and emotional skills, increase their language skills, think differently, and extend the ways they play and relate to other people.
These are five of the best positive play therapies for autism:
One of the most common methods of play therapy, in which a parent, teacher or therapist gets on the floor to play with a child on his or her own terms. The adult joins into whichever game the child is playing, and slowly adds something to it. It can be anything from a second toy to a new word to introduce vocabulary into the game. The goal is to create a back-and-forth interaction between the child and adult to increase communication and add new aspects to play.
Integrated Play Groups (IPG):
In this therapy, children with autism and those without are combined in a single group so that the children on the spectrum can learn how to play while following the lead of the others. Groups usually consist of only three to five children. The adult leader sets the tone of the play, but children soon take over. This type of play therapy gives a child a lot of opportunities to interact with peers and improve their social skills.
Joint Attention Symbolic Play Engagement and Regulation (JASPER):
The JASPER technique is used by a therapist to help a child with autism to improve his or her joint attention skills, meaning the ability to focus on a person and a toy at the same time. The child meets with the therapist for one-on-one sessions, and sometimes this type of therapy is offered at preschools for children with special needs. A child can get this therapy for up to 25 hours a week.
The P.L.A.Y. Project:
The Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters (P.L.A.Y.) Project is a treatment option that is based on the principles of Floortime but has a greater emphasis on parental involvement and partnership with experts on autism. This technique involves early diagnosis and intervention, 25 hours a week of therapy, one-to-one interactions between parent-teacher and child, and fun and engaging play at each level.
2007 Non-Directive Play Study:
Non-directive play therapy, also called child-centered play therapy led by children can also be used in play therapy for autism. A 2007 study showed that a child with severe autism can build relationships and social skills through non-directive play. Growing trust and attachment, greater independence, and engaging in more imaginative play are all observed in the child after non-directive play therapy.