play therapy for neurodivergence

Play Therapy for Neurodivergence

“Toys are children’s words and play is their language” – Dr. Garry L Landreth, the ‘father’ of play therapy.

What is play therapy?

Play therapy is a counseling approach that actively fosters a connection with children.

Landreth says in his textbook Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship “As a dynamic interpersonal relationship between a child (or person of any age and a therapist trained in play therapy procedures who provides selected play materials and facilities the development of a safe relationship for the child (or person of any age) to fully express and explore self (feelings, thoughts, experiences, and behaviors) through play, the child’s natural medium of communication, for optimal growth and development.”

Play therapy involves a counselor actively engaging in play with a child to establish a connection on the child’s level. Therefore, the child feels comfortable expressing themselves in a safe and supportive environment.

According to Courtney Clement Bowles, a Play Therapist located in Wilmington NC says “Play therapy is a developmentally appropriate avenue for children to receive mental health care. It’s an evidence based treatment, it’s trauma-informed. Kids process through play, so with play therapy, you see a lot of younger ones who won’t talk about their feelings. They need to play them out.”

If you want to listen to my interview with Courtney, check out our podcast episode:

How does play therapy help neurodivergent kids?

It’s been proven that play therapy is a great way to support neurodivergent kids. Autistic kids are benefitted, ADHD kids, and neurodivergent kids in general. What is it about play therapy for neurodivergence that’s so effective?

According to Courtney, it’s pretty simple: “Basically, play therapy is providing this place where kids can organize their world and make sense of it. It’s my job to step into that child’s perspective. To view the world from their point of view. Because of that, it’s naturally neurodiversity affirming.”

Creating safe spaces for neurodivergent individuals facilitates remarkable healing. As a therapist, I enjoy working with my neurodivergent clients and intentionally cater to their needs. In these spaces, authentic conversations are possible, leading to true healing and growth.

“Because they’ve had to mask so much, because they’ve had to hide who they are. I find that they find so much value in me caring about what they’re interested in. That sounds so silly, but I’ve seen the difference between “Oh my kid’s beeen in therapy and never wanted to go, they never liked it” but in my office, they can share about their special interest which is so important to them. And what’s important to them is what’s important to me.”

What can we learn from play therapy?

The reason play therapy is so effective for neurodiverse kids is pretty simple. Play therapists are experts in creating spaces where children can be comfortable being themselves. So many spaces that neurodiverse kids occupy are spaces where they’re told to pretend to be something they’re not. It’s a relief to finally find a space that’s specifically for them.

I specialize in working with people who are neurodivergent. Whether you’re autistic, ADHD, or anything in-between, I recreate the magic of play therapy – establishing a space where you can be yourself. I create an environment where you can relax, stop masking, and embrace who you really are. That’s how the healing starts.

If you’re interested in contacting me for a free fifteen minute consultation, please reach out!

2 thoughts on “Play Therapy for Neurodivergence”

  1. Hi Ashtyn. I’d love to connect with you. I’m an autistic family doctor and run a Charlotte area neurodiversity Facebook page: neurodiversity affirming Charlotte. I work for Atrium/Cabarrus Family Medicine and recently gave a presentation to the FM residents introducing them to neurodiversity framing.

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