Many specialists offer play therapy that allows children to develop social and emotional skills while building their own interests and relationships with their peers. It has proven highly successful for children with autism.
In this guide to how play therapy works, we’ll cover:
- What is play therapy?
- How does play therapy work?
- Examples of play therapy
- How play therapy helps with autism
- How to sign up for play therapy
What is Play Therapy?
Play therapy is when children engage in play activities to express themselves most comfortably. This can give children with autism a way to improve their social and emotional skills in a manner they embrace and look forward to.
Play therapy is designed to be accessible, fun, and allow a child to generalize the skills they learn across various environments.
A primary ABA treatment technique is Natural Environment Teaching (NET). This form of play therapy involves ABA treatment in an environment the child is comfortable in. This could be a place from everyday life such as the kitchen table or somewhere they prefer, like their backyard.
There are also many other types of play therapy, including clinical play, free or ‘unstructured’ playtime, and play therapy at home. There is no one-size-fits-all method, and you must communicate with your ABA clinician or therapist about the methods they use with your child to understand them best.
How Does Play Therapy Work?
Play therapy is designed to improve or add to a child’s social skills, language skills, and relation abilities, among other things. This means that play therapy needs to incorporate the principles of these skills through several mediums or toys that a child finds interesting.
Trial and error for high-interest response is a large part of early play therapy. Over time, an ABA clinician or therapist will work to build specific skills such as:
- Imaginative Skills
- Abstract Thinking Skills
- Interactive Learning Environments
These are all skills that a child with autism can and will need for success in education, work, and day-to-day life. Luckily, NET and play therapy are not the only methods of teaching children these skills, which means that a therapist or clinician can be selective about which techniques to use at what time to get the best results for your child.
Examples of Play Therapy
There are many different modes for a good play therapist to connect and engage with children with autism. The closer the medium of play is to your child’s interests, the likelier the success.
There are also some great foundational methods employed by ABA clinicians, including:
- Choosing Toys: This is a simple form of play therapy that allows your child to show their interests while interacting with another person. Defining preferences, making decisions, and communicating them are integral life skills.
- Learning Movement-Based Skills: Learning specific movements like throwing a ball that can be generalized across multiple environments is very valuable for a child. These mechanics enable a child to understand how skills are built and maintained.
- Color-Coordinating Toys: Teaching a child to label, express, and receive different items in a natural environment will allow them to repeat this action across multiple settings.
- Asking for Daily Items: Children with autism often struggle with daily interactions such as asking for food, getting dressed independently, or choosing items in a store. Working on these skills during NET training is a great way to break them down into replicable micro-components.
- Solving Puzzles: Mentally stimulating projects that involve long-term progress are great teaching tools for children with autism. They allow a child to incorporate memory and teamwork to achieve demonstrable levels of success.
These are just a few effective ways that a child can engage in play therapy. Talk to your ABA therapist or clinician about some of their preferred methods while also letting them know what your child responds to best. We also encourage parents, educators, and therapists to track which NET methods work best for consistency.
How Play Therapy Helps with Autism
Play therapy, specifically NET, can help children with autism strengthen their developmental skills while learning new behavioral mechanisms that will translate across environments.
These skills can relate to:
Play therapy teaches children how to generalize specific mechanics, but it is one of the easiest ways to incorporate the concept of generalization. Having a child learn in environments that are not contrived and relevant throughout their lives can help them translate practiced skills into comfortable actions in their day-to-day routines.
How to Sign up for Play Therapy
Play therapy or NET should be available as part of the programming at any high-caliber ABA therapy clinic. Though it may not be mandatory or a core tenet of an initial framework, NET is a popular and effective modern treatment.
When you are looking for an ABA clinic near you, thoroughly discuss what methods the BCBAs and clinicians will incorporate into your child’s framework. The goal is to create a unique system that is effective for you and your child while accounting for the everyday environments in their life.
The Best Play-Based Therapy Provider in Arizona
At Ally Pediatric Therapy, we understand how important it is to find therapy and clinicians that connect with your child. Our licensed professionals work tirelessly to create unique frameworks for every family that we help.
If you want to enroll your child in play-based therapy or like to learn more about how we can help using other ABA principles, please reach out to us today. We’d love to partner with you in building a brighter future for our loved ones with autism.