Young kids learn from play. It is very typical in children to use play for building social and physical skills, for trying out different characters and personalities and for forging friendships. However, children who suffer from autism play in different ways. Autistic children tend to play alone, their games are repetitive and they may indulge in play with no specific goal in mind. If you leave autistic children to themselves, they will often stay in a rut and will be unable to explore their abilities and interests. This is where play therapy can help as it is a tool through which autistic children become themselves.
Under the right circumstances, play therapy can also be useful for parents in relating better to their autistic children. It can be a huge shock to take the autism test for your kids and realize your child is autistic. Obviously, parents want to understand and help their children and play therapy can be useful here. Originally, play therapy was developed as a tool for providing psychotherapy to young people coping with anxiety, mental illness and trauma. In this context, play therapy is a way for children to act out how they feel and come up with coping mechanisms.
While this kind of play therapy remains popular, it is not the same used for children suffering from autism. A number of specialists who offer play therapy to autistic children are actually providing something similar to Floortime Therapy. This is a technique that’s based on playing. It builds on the interests or fascinations of autistic children for building their social or communication and relationship skills. Another therapeutic method that makes use of playing as a strategy for building skills in the kids with autistic is the Play Project. Similar to Floortime, it also builds on their interests and can play an important role in helping autistic children.
Autism is mostly a social-communication disorder. It is immensely difficult for autistic kids to be able to relate to others in the usual ways. For instance, rather than pretending that a doll is a baby, they are more likely to intensely focus on objects, become completely self-absorbed and utilize them for self-stimulation. Play therapy can serve as an excellent tool for helping autistic children move beyond their self-absorption and into shared and real interaction. If used properly, play therapy can enable kids to explore their feelings, their relationship with siblings, peers and family and their environment.
Through play therapy, parents can also take an active role in the development and growth of their autistic child. This therapy can be taught to parents, who can become their children’s therapists and all the while build a more meaningful and stronger relationship. How does a therapist use it? A good therapist will engage your child via the medium of play by getting down on the floor with them. For instance, they may set out a number of toys that might interest the child and allow them to decide if they want to play. Once they have chosen a toy, the therapist does the same and gets in their way.
A relationship has begun, whether the autistic kid responds in a verbal or non-verbal way. If there is no response, the therapist will opt for high-energy and high-interest options for engaging the child. This can include bubble blowing or using toys that vibrate, squeak, move or do something else. Over time, the therapists work on building reciprocal skills like turn-taking or sharing, imaginative skills like pretend cooking skills and even abstract thinking skills. As the autistic child gets better at relating with others, some kids may be brought into the group for developing complex social skills.
Thus, with play therapy, parents get a chance to connect with their children suffering from autism and have fun with them.