There is no doubt that playing has an important role in human development. It is beneficial for boosting cognitive ability, as well as improving overall physical and mental health. It also facilitates the enhancement of motor skills. Even animals exhibit behavior similar to play, sometimes within a few hours after they are born.
However, children with autism often have difficulty with play, especially when it involves engaging their peers. A child in the autism spectrum will often have problems with social interaction, communication, and an inability to break repetitive patterns.
Psychiatrists are now convinced that properly structured play therapy can help children with ASD. It can either be directive or non-directive in a clinical setting. A psychiatrist may encourage play with family members and caregivers.
Parents can also be taught how to use it to tackle the child’s social and emotional issues. In this article, we look at how puzzles, implemented with play therapy principles, can be beneficial.
Engage and Communicate
Because of the challenges that people in the ASD spectrum have with social interactions, they tend to withdraw to themselves. Children with autism may see a 750 piece puzzle as a challenge, where their peers would give up even before they started.
Even though autistic children can be hard to engage and communicate with, their keen interest in certain toys and games can be useful in therapy. In sessions, a child may be given a big jigsaw puzzle, a craft kit or even hard puzzles. When he/she picks up the toy, the therapist may encourage interaction by quietly participating in the game. If the child responds, it becomes the first step towards engagement and communication.
Develop Social Skills
In play sessions, the therapist applies different techniques depending on the psychological diagnosis. For those with ASD, a form of play known as floor-time therapy is used. As the name suggests, the parent sits down with the child and takes part in the activity. During these sessions, the child often provides leadership and direction.
There is also training for parents, teachers, and caregivers. In a preschool setting, children engage peers in fun and structured games. Over time, they gradually learn the unwritten rules of social interactions. Role-playing is encouraged to increase engagement.
Enhance Brain Function
In therapy, children play a range of games that tickle their young minds. Those with ASD usually do not have a problem with routine tasks, especially if it spurs their interest. With only minimal direction, they can start with easy puzzles then move to moderately difficult puzzles before graduating to hard puzzles in no time.
It has been demonstrated that puzzle games can improve math and problem-solving skills. Puzzles are particularly beneficial to those with autism, as they enhance spatial skills. During the session, the therapist can pinpoint areas of development that need attention. The psychiatrist then designs a model that addresses those issues.
Newspapers and magazines have always had puzzles in the entertainment section. Why do people find it fun to solve hard puzzles? According to science, when deeply engaged in solving hard puzzles, we tend to produce dopamine.
The feel-good hormone spikes when we are trying to solve complex problems. As a neurotransmitter, it ferries information between neurons and boosts concentration and confidence. Dopamine is also known to facilitate physical movement. It can, therefore, have a positive psychological and physiological effect for people with autism who often have challenges with coordination.
There are lots of play therapy benefits for children with ASD. A psychiatrist can develop a game that addresses the Identified problem areas. Parents and caregivers should be trained to ensure that they can maximize their engagement with the child. ASD children love challenges that test their ability to find complex patterns. They will enjoy solving tough puzzles as they continue to improve interactions with their peers.