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How does Play Therapy Help Children with ADHD

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is often diagnosed during childhood and may continue into adulthood. Children with ADHD often display signs of inattention and are impulsive and hyperactive. This affects their academic performance and the way they interact with others.

Children with ADHD sometimes display challenging behaviors and they are often misunderstood. A lot of parents struggle with their children. Trust us when we say you are not alone!

Here are some ways you can look out for ADHD in your child. It is often best to raise your concerns with your child's pediatrician.

Does your child

  • Often make careless mistakes in school tasks?

  • struggle to stay focused for a long period of time during tasks/activities or is distracted easily?

  • follow instructions?

  • require repeated reminders?

  • dislike activities that require a lot of attention and effort

  • often fidget with their hands or feet

  • display bouts of hyperactivity and is unable to stay seated for long periods of time?

  • display difficulty in waiting for their turn?

  • display emotional instability and has regular mood swings?

Play Therapy and ADHD

Play therapy is a long-standing alternative therapy treatment option for children with ADHD and other mood or anxiety disorders. The consensus among child psychiatrists and psychologists is that playtime can often help children learn, reduce anxiety and improve self-esteem. This is because children can express themselves without needing to talk.

The "Play" in play therapy is a way for therapists to change a child's perception, cognition and ultimately behaviour As Carol Brady, Ph.D., a child psychologist practicing in Houston, says: “Children communicate metaphorically through play. As a therapeutic tool, it’s like giving a sugary pill instead of a bitter one.” Playing with a young child is essential for her to feel connected, secure, and attached. “Kids with ADHD hear lots of ‘Nos’ and ‘Be careful,’ and ‘Don’t do that,'” says Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D., author of Playful Parenting “Constantly being told ‘no,’ or having to hold themselves back puts a strain on kids causing their symptoms to get worse.” However, Play is a child’s natural way of recovering from daily emotional upheavals. While Cohen agrees that there are teachable moments, playtime is more about relationship building. “No child, with or without ADHD, readily comes up to me and tells me what’s on his mind,” he says. “If we don’t allow children to make this connection through play, they connect in a way that is aggravating and intrusive, and then we get into punishment mode.” Sound familiar?

Play therapy is a developmentally appropriate treatment, for children aged 3 to 11, that promotes communication in the child’s natural language; play (Landreth, 2012). Bratton, Ray, Rhine, and Jones (2005) and Baggerly, Ray, and Bratton (2010) completed meta-analyses of play therapy intervention studies. Results have shown that play therapy is effective with children experiencing a variety of emotional and behavioral disorders.

If you would like to speak to a qualified Play therapist to learn how your child could benefit from play therapy, click here to schedule a complimentary consultation today or take our quiz!

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