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Are your play-based interventions actually play-based?

It’s time to think critically about our "play-based" interventions for autistic kids.

July 8, 2021

“Play” can be any activity or behavior that is non-literal, voluntary, fun, and rewarding—for me, it’s drinking wine and daydreaming that I’m in Greece. For children, play is an enjoyable and preferable mode of learning and is strongly related to communication development. Seems straightforward right? When you start to factor in the differences between neurotypical and autistic play, using play in therapy (while remaining neurodiversity-affirming) can get murky. Many interventions teach autistic kids to mimic neurotypical play while discouraging their own, normal autistic play, which might involve more repetitive movements and literal behaviors. That doesn’t sound like much fun for them.


In this new article, Gibson et al. reviewed play-based interventions published in the last 10 years for autistic children ages 2–8. Before diving into the research, the authors asked autistic adults about their perspectives on play. Here’s what they had to say…

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