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Children’s work is through play. They work on building social skills, developing their imaginations, and practicing relationships. It’s how they explore and become familiar with the world around them.

Play therapy takes that idea and utilizes it to help children process trauma, cope with stress or anxiety, and manage emotions. Play therapists are also now starting to see additional benefits for children on the autism spectrum and with ADHD. 

For children on the autism spectrum, it can help to develop play skills; for those with ADHD, it can help children manage impulsivity and hyperactivity. In addition to these benefits, below we discuss five reasons you may find this type of therapy a worthwhile intervention for your child.

Play Therapy Helps Children Connect to Others

Many neurodiverse children find it difficult to engage with others in a more typical way. Play in a low pressure environment can help reveal the challenges a child is experiencing or skills they are working on, and communicate them to an adult. 

Sometimes, for a child with autism, play may easily become self-focused and leave little room for connection. Sustained and routine play therapy can help a child move beyond that type of play, and begin to interact with others as they work. A play therapist can encourage imaginative play and reciprocal play to lead to this type of interaction.

Builds Emotional Intelligence

Once the child has become comfortable in the playroom, they will begin to use the space to examine their environment and delve into their feelings. For instance, a young child with separation anxiety may use figures coming and going to explore their fear and work through it. Through the play, they are able to communicate their experiences to the play therapist or parent.

For many children with ADHD or autism, anxiety plays a significant role in their decision-making. Play therapy works to harness that energy and increase their attentiveness and control over their actions.

Is A Child-Centered Practice

Children accept skills best when they feel in control of their own learning. The therapy allows the child to set their own pace. They choose what to play with, with few limits in the playroom. Rather than directly instructing or training a child in decision-making and social skills, the therapist works within the world of the child, building a relationship that provides a core foundation for growth.

Is Cost Effective and Convenient

Parents are often able to be included in play therapy sessions. With many therapists, parents are invited into the session and run the sessions in the therapist’s playroom. Over some time, parents also can begin to run therapy sessions at home. This saves money and time, while still fostering a strong relationship between parent and child.

Builds Social Skills

Challenges with social and communication skills are a core component of both ADHD and autism. They may struggle with waiting for a turn, sharing toys with peers, participating appropriately in peer interactions, and reading social cues. This therapy has been shown to help with these difficulties, and build social skills overall.

When you have a young child with autism, ADHD, or anxiety, it can be difficult to know where to seek help. Searching for a play therapist who specializes in your child’s age level can help build the essential skills they are struggling with, increase their self-esteem, and establish a stronger parent-child relationship.

West Hills Academy is a unique program that specializes in the education of students with learning differences, high-functioning autism, and anxiety. If your child could benefit from attending our school, don’t hesitate to reach out here.


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