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Managing Behavioral Challenges Through Connection and Play

When parents are looking for support for children with difficult behaviors, play therapy is often a modality they find intriguing. Families who have children with diagnoses and significant behavior challenges wonder if play therapy is a helpful treatment modality to choose. Parents are often told that Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is what a child needs and they rule out play therapy as an option. So to help parents understand more fully the resources available, we wanted to provide some information on a form of play therapy specifically for those challenging behaviors.

AutPlay Therapy was created by Dr. Robert Jason Grant and it combines aspects of play therapy and behavioral therapy to help children and adolescents gain needed skills. This modality is appropriate for working with children with a broad spectrum of neurodevelopmental disorders, and is not limited to children diagnosed with Autism or ADHD. There are many nervous system, sensory, dysregulation, and metabolic neurodevelopmental disorders that exist. AutPlay Therapy is appropriate for working with children ages 3-18 and their families, who are affected by:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Fragile X Syndrome

  • Sensory Processing Challenges

  • Intellectual Developmental Disorder

  • Cerebral Palsy

  • Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder

  • Tourette Syndrome

  • Learning Disorders

  • Social Disorders

  • Impulsive Disorders

AutPlay Therapy often begins with a screening and assessment process to evaluate where a child or adolescent is in terms of basic functioning, emotional regulation, social functioning, and relationship development. Other adults in the child’s life, such as therapists, parents, or other caregivers, can complete assessments to help identify what might be causing certain behaviors and what might be helpful in decreasing negative behaviors. This allows the therapist to develop a treatment plan using structured play therapy interventions to focus on the child’s individual skill deficits, designed to build relationship and increase engagement with peers and within the family. The interventions selected help develop skill deficits in the six target areas covered in AutPlay Therapy:

  1. Emotional Regulation Ability

  2. Social Skills Development

  3. Connection

  4. Sensory Processing Challenges

  5. Anxiety

  6. Behavioral Challenges

AutPlay Therapy supports the family system through play, a child’s natural language, which enables the parent to become agents of change with the therapist; the parents are provided the opportunity to build positive connection between parent and child. AutPlay Therapy includes parent training, which teaches parents how to incorporate the structured play therapy interventions at home. The therapist continues to meet with and train the parents in implementing the interventions at home until treatment goals have been met. Parent training sessions may include some behavior modification approaches to try at home, such as the implementation of a weekly visual schedule for the child, developing routine and consistency, establishing appropriate consequences, and how to implement consequences and reward systems.

AutPlay Therapy has shown to be effective treatment for the following:

  • Increasing Emotional Regulation Ability

  • Improving Social Skills and Functioning

  • Improving Relationship Development and Connection

  • Reducing Anxiety Levels

  • Improving Sensory Processing Challenges

  • Increasing Concentration, Focus, and Attention

  • Reducing Unwanted Behaviors

  • Improving the Parent/Child Relationship

Any child who is struggling with developing positive peer relationships could benefit from the directives in AutPlay Therapy for gaining needed social skills and reducing unwanted behaviors. As stated on the AutPlay Therapy website, “When children can learn to self regulate, possess social skills that relate to the environments they are asked to function in, and learn appropriate and meaningful relationship connection, they are less likely to have behavioral issues and more likely to function in their day-to-day environment successfully.” AutPlay and play therapy help families to meet their need of providing effective skill building and parent education to have a more healthy and happy home. We don’t want our children to struggle in this world anymore then they have to. Seeking out mental health treatment and knowing what you are really getting into is extremely important to parents. Looking for properly trained and licensed child mental health specialists who have the skills, training, and supervision to meet your child's needs is necessary. This is why the owner of Olympia Therapy brought out Dr. Grant to train our nine of eleven clinicians in AutPlay Therapy so that we could have Certified Autplay Therapists in our area. If you are interested in finding a Certified AutPlay Therapist in your area, you can search here:

Adapted from

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