Information on Play Therapy for the Neurodiverse Child

At Unified Mental Health Counseling Services, we embrace a neurodiversity paradigm of autism and other neurodivergence as a natural and valuable part of human diversity. There is not an ‘ideal’ brain or correct style of neurocognitive functioning; all are valued. There is not an ideal or correct way for children to play, communicate and move; all are valued.

Play is all about interacting with others in a cooperative, communicating needs and wants, strategizing, interpreting the intentions of others, and taking turns. Play therapy is focused on the individual needs of the child and each session is designed to fit those needs. Approaches are adjusted from session to session and from child to child.

Non-directive play therapy is the more unstructured type of play. This is where children are left to guide themselves with fewer boundaries and are left to work through problems on their own with the facilitation of a trained play therapist.

Directive play therapy is just the opposite. It is a more guided approach, where a parent or therapist engages the child more often and directly and might make suggestions or try to move the session along to meet specific therapeutic goals (e.g. social problem-solving)

We use both non-directive and directive play therapy approaches. Sessions often begin with little or no direction, allowing the child to pick the initial activity. As the session moves along we then might prompt or nudge the child to choose a new toy or to make a request or communicate in some way, making the session more directive in nature.