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The Role of Play in Autism Therapy: Why It Matters

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Children with autism require individualized therapies to help them grow and thrive. As the parent of an autistic child, you’ve probably already started researching various therapy options for your kid. One of these to consider is play therapy. That may seem counterintuitive, but play helps them learn. Below, explore the role of play in autism therapy and why it matters.

The Importance of Play Therapy

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) play differently than neurotypical kids, and that’s okay. They have to learn functional play skills, and allowing kids to participate in enjoyable play activities permits therapists to teach and build these skills.

The benefits and effectiveness of play are instrumental. The kids won’t even realize they’re working and learning! They’ll be too busy having fun to recognize they’re learning valuable skills and lessons.

Autism is a socio-communication disorder, and many children will become self-absorbed no matter their play activity. Play therapy lets the kids explore their needs and feelings while learning important life skills. Parents can take a more active role in their kids’ treatment. This role helps create a stronger and more substantial child-parent bond.

Provides Natural Reinforcement Opportunities

Teaching through play allows therapists to use a more positive and reinforcing experience—the kids will want to participate more frequently. These encouraging methods enable children to attend longer therapy sessions to help kids hone their skills. Other practices work, but kids lose interest quicker than during playtime. Traditional therapies also won’t provide the same opportunities as play therapy.

Types of Play Therapy

Therapists individualize therapy for each child because every child learns differently. That’s why there are different types of play therapy. These standard play techniques enhance a child’s emotional and social skills. Let’s explore a few different types.

Integrated Play Groups (IPGs)

IPG therapy involves children with various forms of socio-communicative skills playing together. The goal is for the neurotypical kids to help teach their neurodivergent playmates’ social skills. These groups can meet up to three hours a week.


Floortime is one of the more popular play therapy options. It can happen at the therapist’s office or from the comfort of home. The therapist or caregiver will play on the floor with the child and play how the kid wants to, with the goal of introducing a new element. They want to form relationships using the child’s interests during floortime.

Joint Attention Symbolic Play Engagement and Regulation (JASPER)

This play therapy focuses on helping a child play with one child and toy at a time. The hope is that children with autism will play more effectively with their peers. Some preschools offer this therapy. Kids will expand their toy range, learn to pretend play, and talk more with their peers over time.

South Shore understands the role of play in autism therapy and why it’s important. That’s why our autism treatment programs for children in Boston, MA, offer play therapy alongside our other services. Contact us today to find out how we can help your child.

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