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Play-Based Therapy

January 23, 2024
Early Childhood, Parenting, Recreation

Play is at the heart of childhood; it is a child’s work and it is how they learn. Play therapy is a dynamic process that enables children to express themselves and interact with other children. It requires the therapist to come to the child’s level and follow the child’s lead. Therapists can work in any of a child’s natural environments: at home, in school, or even at the playground. At times, therapists will ask other family members to get involved in the activities, which could be anything a child might enjoy. Doing puzzles, for instance, can teach fine motor skills, problem-solving skills, and number and/or letter recognition, while also working on shared attention and communication. Play therapy is widely used to treat emotional and behavioral disorders of children up to 12 years old because it fully meets their unique developmental needs. 

Some play-based therapy methodologies are: 

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
ABA was originally developed in the 1950s and 60s based on the work of B.F. Skinner, and is the most well-known methodology. While most ABA programs are now play based, it teaches skills that can be used in everyday life. Play-based ABA therapy is child-centered. Unlike other traditional forms of therapy, which often involve adult-directed instruction, play-based ABA therapy hones the child’s interests and motivations. The therapist observes and engages with the child during play and uses their interests to guide the learning process. ABA is intended to be provided by certified behavior analysts (BCBAs)and therapists (RBTs), but also underlies many programs used in schools. It can help increase language and communication skills, improve attention, focus, social skills, memory, and academics, and decrease problem behaviors. Call our Help Line for ABA Therapist referrals.

DIR Floortime
DIR® is the Developmental, Individual-differences, and Relationship-based model (pronounced as initials).  The model highlights the power of relationships and emotional connections to fuel development. Floortime is an approach to working with children that is based on this model. It focuses on allowing the child to lead the play and helping them close “circles of communication” (conversational turn-taking). Floortime is naturalistic and can be done anytime and anywhere – mealtime, bathtime, going to the playground, anywhere a child needs to interact with someone else can become a session. DIR Floortime is most commonly utilized with children with educational, social-emotional, mental health, and/or developmental challenges but can be beneficial to all children.
Learn more: 
Autism Speaks Directory
ICDL Floortime Directory
Profectum Provider Directory