Stephanie McGlynn, MFT

Play Therapy for Children in the Autistic Spectrum

Regardless of children’s diagnostic labels, I start with children based on their developmental levels. Throughout the process I use a variety of techniques to establish and maintain a relationship with each child. The focus is often to teach the child how to play with a variety of toys, to work on social skills that will prepare the child for playdates with her/his peers, and to increase the capacity for participation in social situations.

Amongst other methods, I utilize the “DIR/Floortime” approach developed by Dr. Stanley Greenspan and Dr. Serena Wieder, the concept of “Social Stories” originated by Carol Gray, as well as principles of social skill training from Dr. Tony Attwood and Dr. Jeanette McAfee. I also have extensive experience using behavioral intervention methods, based on my work in home- and school programs for children in the autistic spectrum.

My focus is a team approach: I am interested to hear your opinions and want to be in contact with other professionals who are working with your child, such as speech pathologists, occupational therapists, teachers, home program coordinators and tutors. To provide the most effective treatment, I ask parents to be involved in the therapeutic process. This can take the form of observing and/or participating in the child’s sessions, homework assignments, and separate consultations with me.

I offer a safe, accepting, and fun atmosphere for children’s explorations and expressions. My office provides a large variety of toys, games, and art materials to support each child’s individual process.

Rationale for Play Therapy

Most children under the age of 10 have not developed their abstract reasoning skills and verbal abilities enough to communicate on a pure verbal level. Instead of using words to describe their feelings and thoughts, children express these issues through play. This is true for all children and especially true for children diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s syndrome. Yet, getting to the level of play in a typical sense is a developmental step that is often not naturally achieved by children in the autistic spectrum. My task is to turn the chosen activities of children into playful interactions, extend their tolerance to stay in contact with me, and increase their repertory of interests and expressions.

By focusing on developmental milestones in the one-on-one setting, I can provide the intensive work that is needed for linking emotions to behavior and to words. The context of play therapy provides the child with the opportunity to engage with a different adult in an unfamiliar environment. Taking this challenge on in a safe environment can help increase the child’s ability to relate to others.

Because my time with each child is limited, I train the primary care takers in approaches that have been found useful for their child. My regular consultations with parents are used to provide input in the child’s home program and to stay informed about the child’s developments in other settings.