If you’ve ever watched a child deep in play, you know it is more than a fun activity to pass the time. Play is the way children learn about the world. They learn to solve problems, to communicate with others, to use their imaginations, and to improve motor skills.
The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees: research shows that play with parents or with peers develops executive functioning skills, prosocial behaviors, the ability to form strong and secure relationships, and improved brain structure.
Children on the autism spectrum often lack some play skills necessary for parallel and, later, cooperative play. Some struggle to use their imaginations, while others prefer solely to play in their own way. Others find it challenging to “go with the flow” and be willing to go along with changes in rules or directions. Working on these play skills can give children with autism access to countless other skills and an overall improved quality of life.
Modern ABA therapy uses the importance of play as integral to its structure. BCBAs (Board Certified Behavior Analysts) and RBTs (Registered Behavior Technicians) rely on play to enhance capabilities in a number of areas, connect with the child, and build coping skills.
Play Helps Build Relationships Between Therapists and the Children the Serve
For any child, but especially a child diagnosed with ASD (autism spectrum disorder), building a relationship prior to completing the work is paramount. To form this bond, behavior therapists educate themselves on the child’s interests and personality, and play with the child.
By forming this trusting relationship from the beginning, therapists are better able to keep the child engaged, manage challenging behaviors, and teach them the necessary skills.
Play Helps with Emotional Regulation
Many children on the autism spectrum struggle with emotional regulation. Often, when they feel dysregulated, their minds enter into “fight or flight” and feel out of control. Through play, a behavior therapist helps to learn a child’s triggers and resulting behaviors, and can work with them on redirecting these behaviors. Over time, this improves self-regulation.
For instance, a child who has perfectionistic tendencies may struggle with a board game, and struggle to relinquish the control playing one requires. The trusted therapist will work through the frustration with your child, teach the child to communicate their feelings, and figure out ways to resolve the issue.
Play Can Reveal Otherwise Hidden Information
Watching a child engage in serious play can reveal emotions they are processing. A child will likely not come up to an adult and express their feelings. These feelings will come out through the tools they are using to play.
As an example, a child with fear about attending a birthday party may express it through a figure she is playing with. Or, a child with separation anxiety might reenact characters repeatedly leaving each other.
Play Skills Help Build Social Skills
Modern ABA recognizes the power play has in teaching social skills to children. There are countless vital skills built into simply playing with another child:
- Maintaining positive interactions
- Working through disagreements
- Seeing the other child’s perspective
- Taking turns and sharing
- Forming relationships with other children
- Interpreting what another child wants
By learning these skills in an ABA setting, there are clear rules and guidelines around the activity so the child feels secure, comfortable, and open to learning new skills.
Play Makes Learning Fun
If a child believes they are going somewhere simply to work, they will dread every visit. On the other hand, if the RBT teaches through play, the child will be much more motivated to attend. The entire experience will become a positive one.
Once your child considers ABA therapy to be a positive experience, they will be more focused, productive, and willing to learn.
The Springtide family is proud to offer effective ABA therapy based in play and offer every child on the autism spectrum a both fun and meaningful experience. If you would like more information on who will be working with your child or what our program entails, reach out on our website, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at 888-260-1609.
Reach out today and speak with one of our enrollment specialists to get started with Springtide