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Running Head: Efficacy of Play Therapy
Franciscan University of Steubenville
Department of Psychology
The Efficacy of Play...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
Abstract
Play enables children to learn about the world around them and how to relate to others...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
The Efficacy of Play Therapy in Building Social Skills in Children with Autism
Introduction
The...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
understand that their peers with autism have similar desires to play and make friends, even if ...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
This paper will discuss autism and play therapy. To begin, section one describes criteria
for a...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
red flag for autism spectrum disorder (APA). The loss of language and/or social skills occurs i...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
CWA’s ability to play with other children and/or their parents. From an early age, CWA also
sho...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
The typical children were selected from a primary school in inner London. The chronological
age...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
All but one of the typical children passed both of the belief questions, about where one
charac...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
experience loneliness and to form friendships. Bauminger and Kasari focused on two forms of
lon...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
Kasari). CWA reported greater feelings of loneliness than typically developing children
(Baumi...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
possess a theory of mind. It is fair to say, however, that the affective deficits of CWA may
i...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
experience. However, a child who may develop autism can have difficulty with moving with
purpo...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
The fifth FDL has a foundation of abilities to create ideas, and begins between eighteen
and t...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
approaches of play therapy (Trice-Black & Bailey). Carl Jung’s principles of the unconscious
b...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
Greenspan and Wieder (2006) instituted the Family First Initiative to help parents work
with t...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
partaking in adultism, the disregard and disqualification of young people leading to resentmen...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
developmental levels (Greenspan & Wieder), which were discussed earlier in this paper. The
ind...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
level is used for children who are unable to verbally express their wishes or engage in preten...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
Parents participating in filial therapy receive training in a group format with a didactic
com...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
The PPHC is an autism intervention model mediated by parents based on Greenspan and
Wieder’s D...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
coaching, and support from their PLAY Project consultant. At the start of the program, parents...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
1) treatment modality/theoretical model used; 2) treatment provider, either mental
health prof...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
led by paraprofessionals had a large ES of 1.05. Studies of professional led group therapy had...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
sizes of the other treatment outcomes ranged from 0.51 for self-concept to 0.83 for social
adj...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
(FEDQ). CARS rates autism symptoms on a 15-60 scale. The FEDQ is related to Greenspan’s
six fu...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
The results of the two studies show that the DIR/Floortime is an effective treatment.
However,...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
There were four different testing measures used at the beginning and conclusion of the
study. ...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
randomized control groups, which were not present in studies of other parent-mediated
programs...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
compared to parents in control groups. Parents in the PPHCP group had decreased levels of
depr...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
measurement types in order to more accurately assess the efficacy of DIR/Floortime. The result...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
The PLAY Project Home Consultation Program
There are several aspects future studies of the PPH...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
References
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Autism Spectrum Disorder. In Diagnostic a...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
Greenspan, S. I. & Wieder, S. (2006). Engaging autism: Using the Floortime Approach to help
ch...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
Pajareya, K., & Nopmaneejumruslers, K. (2011). A pilot randomized controlled trial of
DIR/Floo...
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EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY
The PLAY Project. (n.d.). FAQ for parents [Fact sheet]. Retrieved January 31, 2016, from
http:...
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The Efficacy of Play Therapy - thesis final copy

  1. 1. Running Head: Efficacy of Play Therapy Franciscan University of Steubenville Department of Psychology The Efficacy of Play Therapy in Building Social Skills in Children with Autism Submitted by Stephanie K. Bishop In Fulfillment of Requirements for the course, Psychology 434, Thesis February 15, 2016
  2. 2. 1 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY Abstract Play enables children to learn about the world around them and how to relate to others. However, the social, affective, and cognitive deficits of autism spectrum disorder causes difficulties in engaging in play. Children with the disorder often have great difficulties engaging with the world around them and turn to self-stimulation and other restrictive behaviors. This paper examines play therapy as a treatment to address these deficits in individuals with autism. The extent of the social and affective deficits’ impact on the development of children with autism is assessed. Questions were raised about the development of play therapy and about the roles of parents and therapists. There are three styles of play therapy examined in this paper: DIR/Floortime, filial therapy, and the PLAY Project Home Consultation Program (PPHCP). Each of these three styles of play therapy are designed to help children with autism overcome their deficits; however, each style has a different approach to accomplish their goal.
  3. 3. 2 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY The Efficacy of Play Therapy in Building Social Skills in Children with Autism Introduction The above image is from the new web-based picture book “We’re Amazing 1, 2, 3!” put out by the makers of Sesame Street (Sesame Workshop, 2015). The picture book introduces Sesame Street’s newest character Julia, the girl on the left in the above picture, who has autism. The picture book is geared to young children with the goal of helping them to learn how to interact with their peers with autism. Julia is shown in the picture book to be playing differently from the other children; however, that does not hinder her from having friends like Elmo who try to understand her. Julia is able to form friendships with Elmo and Abby, the girl in the fairy costume, through the shared language of play. Hines shares insights on the impacts of the storybook and the rest of the Sesame Workshop’s initiative Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children. Hines quotes Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, the senior vice president of community and family engagement at the Sesame Workshop, who noted that it is five times more likely for children with autism to experience bullying than their peers without autism (Hines, 2015). Betancourt also stated that the goal of Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children was to “bring forth what all children share in common, not their differences. Children with autism [CWA] share in the joy of playing and loving and being friends and being part of a group” (Hines, 2015, para. 6). It is commendable that the Sesame Workshop is trying to provide tools for helping children
  4. 4. 3 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY understand that their peers with autism have similar desires to play and make friends, even if it is in different ways than they themselves would. The well-regarded animal scientist, Temple Grandin, wrote a book on autism entitled Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism in which she shares her experiences with the disorder. Grandin (2006) explains that it was her governess playing with her that kept her engaged with the world outside her Technicolor daydreams. Play can be a powerful tool for education and can even help individuals discover possible careers. For example, Grandin’s elementary school catalyzed her interest in science through activities such as science experiments and visiting science museums to bolster hers and other students’ interest. From her experience, Grandin (2006) asserts that learning can be bolstered by broadening the fixations and obsessions of CWA. Grandin conveyed that Dr. Leo Kanner, one of the nation’s first child psychiatrists and the first to recognize autism as a disorder (John Hopkins, n.d.), encourages clients to channel their fixations into successful careers, as well as tools to gain a social life and friends (Grandin). Thus, play is a method through which fixations can be broadened to allow for greater learning and engagement. Why should play be used as a form of therapy? Fred Rogers, better known as Mr. Rogers, had great insight on play’s importance for children. He said that “(p)lay is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood”. It is through play that children first learn about the world around them and how to form relationships. However, the many social-affective deficits of autism impact children’s abilities to enter into the world of others. Play on the individual child’s developmental level can enable them to overcome their social-affective deficits.
  5. 5. 4 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY This paper will discuss autism and play therapy. To begin, section one describes criteria for a diagnosis of autism. The way CWA experience loneliness and friendship, along with how emotions affect a child’s development will also be examined in the first section. Section two will begin with an overview of the history of play therapy’s development and applicable settings for use. The role of parents and therapists will then be examined, followed by a discussion of three play therapy styles. Discussion of the efficacy and a critique of the play therapy styles will conclude the paper. Autism Diagnostic criteria Autism spectrum disorder, as described in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.; DSM-5; American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2013), is a disorder comprised of symptoms that limit and impair everyday functioning since early childhood, usually before 36 months. Males are more likely than females to be diagnosed with autism at a rate of 4 to 1 (APA). Symptoms of autism spectrum disorder include: “persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across contexts, not accounted for by general developmental delays”, “restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interest, or activities” (APA, 2013, p. 50). Symptoms of the disorder typically begin manifesting between the ages of 12 and 24 months; however, if deficits are severe a child may be diagnosed before 12 months of age. On the other hand, a diagnosis may not be made until after 24months of age if symptoms are less severe (APA). Children’s developmental levels plateau or regress during the age range of diagnosis, and social behaviors or language use deteriorates either gradually or relatively rapidly. This deterioration of skills is extremely uncommon with other disorders so these loses can serve as a
  6. 6. 5 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY red flag for autism spectrum disorder (APA). The loss of language and/or social skills occurs in about a third of CWA (Karande, 2006). Autism frequently is comorbid (co-occurring) with intellectual disability (APA). Autism is considered a spectrum disorder due to the different ways in which it manifests depending on severity, level of development, and chronological age (APA). The social communication deficits of autism manifest in a wide range of communication and behavior. First, a child may have a range of deficiencies in reciprocal social and emotional interactions. For example, they may differ from the normal manner of back-and-forth communications; exhibit a reduced amount of sharing of their interests, emotions, or mood (affect); or failing to initiate or reply to social interactions (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Communication issues can also lie in non-verbal means such as lack of correspondence between eye contact and verbal communication, poor understanding of uses of body language and gestures, as well as a lack of facial expressions (APA). Children may also exhibit difficulties in adapting their behavior to meet the context of social interactions, such as when partaking in imaginative play with peers (APA). Children may also lack interest in their peers (APA). These deficits need to be examined in light of the individual’s age, gender, and culture. Friendships for individuals with autism may be one-sided or based solely on special shared interests (APA). Discerning what behavior is appropriate in one social context but not in others may present difficulties for older individuals with the disorder (APA). Social issues in depth CWA often have difficulties engaging in play. This difficulty in playing can be caused by fine (small muscle) and gross (large muscle) motor movement issues. CWA may exhibit repetitive and restrictive behavior patterns or repetitive motor movements, such as lining up toys or flipping objects over. These repetitive motor movements and different play styles can inhibit
  7. 7. 6 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY CWA’s ability to play with other children and/or their parents. From an early age, CWA also show difficulties integrating their verbal and non-verbal communication; for example, there may be a lack of corresponding eye contact, gesturing, facial expressions, or their tone of voice may not match what the individual is discussing (APA). CWA also find play difficult due to issues with expressive (ability to communicate using language; SERVE Center, n.d.) and receptive (ability to listen to and understand language; SERVE Center, n.d.) communication skills (Hess, 2012). The communication issues may in part be due to the theory of mind capabilities of CWA. O’Toole (2014) notes that theory of mind, which is the intuitive ability to see the perspective of another and react accordingly, may pose challenges for CWA. Difficulties with understanding theory of mind may limit CWA’s ability to play with other children. Baron-Cohen and Bauminger and Kasari studied the theory of mind capabilities of CWA. Baron-Cohen (1989) examined the theory of mind capabilities of children with autism. The goal of the study was to determine if CWA were able to make what is called “second-order belief attributions (i.e. ‘Mary thinks John thinks the ice-cream van is in the park’)” (Baron- Cohen, 1989, p. 288). Typical children are capable of second-order belief attribution by the time they are between the ages of six and seven. Baron-Cohen hypothesized that even if the CWA were able to make first-order belief attributions (“i.e. “Mary thinks the marble is in the basket’”; Baron-Cohen, 1989, p. 287), they would have impairments in making second-order belief attributions. Subjects of the study consisted of three groups of ten: a group of CWA, children with Down Syndrome, and typical children (Baron-Cohen). The CWA all came from special schools for CWA near or in London, except for one who completed mainstream education. The children with Downs Syndrome attended a school for people with learning disabilities in inner London.
  8. 8. 7 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY The typical children were selected from a primary school in inner London. The chronological age (CA), expressive verbal mental age (MA), receptive verbal MA, and nonverbal MA for the three groups are given in the table below. The typical children chosen were all between 7.5 and 7.8 years of age, as children in that age range generally are able to make second-order belief attributions. The verbal and nonverbal MA for the typical children were not examined as it was assumed they would be in line with their CA. Group Chronological Age (CA) Expressive verbal Mental Age (MA) Receptive Verbal MA Nonverbal MA CWA 10.9-18.9yrs 7.3-17.7yrs 2.8-17.9yrs 8.3-17.9yrs Down Syndrome 9.3-17.6yrs 6.1-9.9yrs 2.5-6.8yrs 5.0-8.5yrs Typical children 7.5-7.8yrs -- -- -- A toy village set on a 2ft.sq. table-top consisting of a Church, two houses, a park and road separated by a fence, an ice-cream van, and four 3in. people were used in the study. Rows of trees were also included so that the characters in the story were unable to see either the Church or John’s house from the park. Each child was tested individually and was asked questions about the scenario. The two children in the story, John and Mary, were initially in the park interacting with the ice-cream man. The children in each group were given a scenario where John and Mary go to buy ice-cream in different locations they are told by the ice-cream man, but the two children are not together when he tells where he is going each time. As the scenario unfolded the children were asked five prompt questions to make sure that they knew what was taking place; a question about where the characters believed the other went to buy ice-cream and a justification for it; and a question about where the character had actually gone to buy ice-cream. The scenario and questions were given again in a second trial, but with a different order of locations.
  9. 9. 8 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY All but one of the typical children passed both of the belief questions, about where one character believed the other would look for the ice cream truck, as did six of the ten children with Down Syndrome (Baron-Cohen). However, none of the CWA passed the belief question. The children’s responses to the justification questions were examined in order to determine what order of belief attribution they were able to make. Responses were coded as second-order if the children took into account the beliefs of both Mary and John; as first-order if only John or Mary’s beliefs were considered; or zero-order if neither of their beliefs were accounted for. Any ambiguity in responses resulted in them being downgraded in level of belief attribution. One child from both the Down Syndrome and CWA groups did not respond to the justification question. The children who had passed the belief question were able to give responses to the justification question that showed they were using second-order belief attribution. Those who failed the belief question, however, responded with first-order attribution. Also, five of the CWA gave possible zero-order responses by say where the van actually was instead of where either John or Mary believed it to be (Baron-Cohen). Baron-Cohen reached several conclusions from the study. First, even though they were able to make first-order belief attributions, the CWA were unable to make second-order attributions; however, children in the typical and Downs Syndrome groups were able to make second-order attributions. What is interesting about this is that the children with Downs Syndrome had lower MAs than the CWA. Second, the CWA may have failed due to the conceptual complexity of the belief question which required the ability to make second-order attributions in order to pass; justification question responses support this idea. Bauminger and Kasari (2000) examined the possible experiences of loneliness and friendship in CWA. They wondered if CWA would have the theory of mind capabilities to
  10. 10. 9 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY experience loneliness and to form friendships. Bauminger and Kasari focused on two forms of loneliness: emotional and social-cognitive loneliness. They defined emotional loneliness as “the subjective responses to the lack of affective bonding with particular others, leading to sadness, fear, restlessness, and emptiness” (Bauminger & Kasari, p. 447). They defined social-cognitive loneliness as children’s feeling excluded, bored, and meaningless because of dissatisfaction with their relationships or lacking groups of peers. It is debated whether issues with cognitive process or emotional/affective processes which underline autism (Bauminger and Kasari). This debate about the underlying cognitive or emotional process issues leads to differing views of children with autism’s experiences of loneliness. Bauminger and Kasari’s (2000) study consisted of direct interviews and self-report measures from 22 participants with high-functioning autism selected research centers and 19 typical children selected from local public schools. The ages of the participants with high- functioning autism ranged from 7 year, 11 months to 14 year, 8 months; whereas the ages of the typical children ranged from 7 year, 8 months to 14 years, 8 months (Bauminger & Kasari, 2000). Bauminger and Kasari (2000) examined the loneliness experienced by children in both groups using three different measures. First, they had the children define what loneliness meant to them; inclusion of both the affective and social-cognitive dimensions was looked for. Both groups were then asked to give accounts of times where they felt lonely. Accounts were assessed based on three dimensions: 1) internal v. external locus of control; 2) audience; and 3) general versus specific examples (Bauminger and Kasari). The Loneliness Rating Scale, a 24 question standardized self-report questionnaire, was used as a measure of the children’s loneliness. Sixteen of the items focused on feelings of loneliness and social discontentment (Bauminger &
  11. 11. 10 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY Kasari). CWA reported greater feelings of loneliness than typically developing children (Bauminger & Kasari). Bauminger & Kasari then examined children’s friendships. Children were asked to define what friendship meant for them; three dimensions were looked for in the definitions: companionship, intimacy, and affection. Bauminger and Kasari (2000) also used the twenty-three item Friendship Qualities Scale self-report questionnaire developed by Bukowski, Boivin, and Hoza which asks children to identify their best friend and describe qualities of their relationship. Bauminger and Kasari’s study revealed that CWA did in fact experience loneliness, more so than the typically developing children reported. However, their study did reveal a difference between the way typical children and CWA define loneliness. The typically developing children studied gave complete definitions with both types of loneliness. On the other hand, most of the CWA only included the social-cognitive aspect of loneliness in their definitions. Bauminger and Kasari (2000) also proposed that for CWA there might not be the same link between friendship and loneliness as there is for typically developing children. Typically developing children see closeness and companionship in friendships as lessening loneliness; however this was not seen with CWA (Bauminger & Kasari). CWA may not be able to emotionally link friendship and loneliness (Bauminger & Kasari). These findings show that CWA do have some capacity for developing a theory of mind. Baron-Cohen and Bauminger and Kasari’s studies pose differing views of theory of mind capabilities in CWA. Baron-Cohen proposed that CWA either lack a theory of mind or have a very limited one. Bauminger and Kasari’s study questions this idea by suggesting that if CWA experience loneliness, which their study indicates is the case, then CWA would in fact have to
  12. 12. 11 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY possess a theory of mind. It is fair to say, however, that the affective deficits of CWA may impact the full development of their theory of mind. The findings of both Baron-Cohen and Bauminger and Kasari’s studies have implications for the abilities of CWA to partake in play. Possession of a theory of mind enables one to see the perspective of others. A theory of mind helps in play because children can put themselves in the place of characters and/or the people they are playing with. This allows children to learn from others and develop more fully. Typical children are able to spend hours using their theory of mind to learn about the world through imaginative play. However, the play of CWA is different than that of typically developing children; for example, CWA tend to play with toys by repetitively spinning moveable pieces or lining them up. This difference in play is partly due to CWA’s compromised theory of mind development, which makes imaginative play difficult. Because of this, CWA do not receive the same benefits from play and their development of communication and other skills is affected. Difficulties in linking emotions to movements may cause deficits in socializing in children with autism. Greenspan and Wieder (2006) discuss six functional developmental levels (FDLs) of relating and communicating skills. Children with autism often have issues in the first four FDLs; they may make progress through the first few but then regress and lose abilities. The foundation of the first of Greenspan and Wieder’s FDLs is shared attention and regulation. This FDL is reached around the ages of 0-3 months. Involved in this FDL is showing “calm interest in and purposeful responses to sights, sound, touch, movement, and other sensory experiences (e.g., looking, turning to sounds)” (Greenspan & Wieder, 2006, p. 30). At this FDL, a child developing typically is able to link their emotions to their actions and sensations they
  13. 13. 12 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY experience. However, a child who may develop autism can have difficulty with moving with purpose or with coordinating movements at all. Greenspan & Wieder’s (2006) second FDL is based on engagement and relating, and is attained between two and five months of age. Children at this FDL typically show an increase in expressions of relatedness and intimacy though sustained joyful smiles. CWA who are having issues connecting their emotions to their actions may not be able to show their feelings of pleasure in their facial expressions. The basis of third FDL is purposeful emotional interactions, and typically is reached between four and ten months of age (Greenspan & Wieder, 2006). Children who reach the third FDL are able to engage in a range of back-and-forth interactions where sounds and hand gestures are used to convey emotions and intentions. Typically developing children are usually able to continually engage in back-and-forth interactions; however, for children developing autism this may be too difficult so they have more fleeting responses. Greenspan and Wieder’s (2006) fourth FDL has a foundation of long chains of back-and- forth emotional signaling and shared problem solving. Children attain the fourth FDL between the ages of ten and eighteen months of age. Children at this FDL typically are able to problem solve by linking many emotional and social interactions. Difficulties with social interaction and problem-solving with others are often seen in CWA during this stage. Greenspan and Wieder stated that children developing autism cannot sustain long enough chains of emotional and social interactions necessary for cooperative problem-solving; usually they can only handle five or six at a time. This deficiency creates problems developing a sense of self, recognizing patterns, and using symbols.
  14. 14. 13 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY The fifth FDL has a foundation of abilities to create ideas, and begins between eighteen and thirty months (Greenspan & Wieder, 2006). Typically developing children at the fifth FDL are able to use words or phrases meaningfully in pretend play with parents or peers. The sixth FDL is based on logical thinking and being able to build bridges between ideas. The sixth FDL begins around thirty and forty-two months of age. Abilities in logically connecting ideas with meaning are seen in typically developing children in at the sixth FDL. Children developing autism rarely master the skills of the fourth FDL, so they do not progress to the other stages. Progressing to FDL five or six is dependent on children learning to “exchange emotional and social signals and use ideas in an emotionally meaningful manner” (Greenspan & Wieder, 2006, p. 32). Play Therapy Overview O’Toole (2014) states that children learn how to sort through information and relate to others through play. However, autism’s sensory and social issues make engaging in open ended group play feel more difficult than fun. Thus, play in a style that the children with autism enjoy can be used to teach interpersonal skills. Play therapy dates back to the work of Anna Freud and Melanie Klein who both incorporated play into their analytical work with children (Trice-Black & Bailey, 2013). This understanding of children’s cognitive development is the basis of play therapy. In 1947, Virginia Axline brought play therapy into the scope of counseling for children as an empirically supported and effective intervention (Trice-Black & Bailey). Play therapy is used by many of the theoretical approaches. As noted earlier, Freud and Klein used play in their psychoanalytical work, and out of their work came non-directive
  15. 15. 14 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY approaches of play therapy (Trice-Black & Bailey). Carl Jung’s principles of the unconscious being accessible through play were used to develop sandtray therapy (Kalff, 1991). Axline began child-centered play therapy and in 2012 it was expanded by Landreth. Gestalt, Adlerian, and cognitive-behavioral are some of the other counseling approaches that have been incorporated into play therapy (Trice-Black & Bailey). There are a variety of setting in which play therapy can be implemented. Trice-Black and Bailey (2013) discuss how play therapy can be used in school counseling programs. School counselors are able to use play therapy in addition to their other interventions and programming (Trice-Black & Bailey). Various theoretical approaches can incorporate play, art, and other activities in different settings including classrooms, individual and group counseling sessions, and in preventative programs addressing academic and developmental concerns (Trice-Black & Bailey, 2013). Play therapy can also be used at home to build on the interaction skills of CWA and strengthen the relationships in the family. For example, Sheperis, Sheperis, Monceaux, Davis, and Lopez (2015) examined how Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) can be used to help reduce behavioral issues in children with special needs. The goal of PCIT is to teach parents strategies to build relationships with their children with special needs using techniques of therapeutic play (Sheperis et al.). PICT is designed to be used by families with children in pre- school and thus extends the therapy into everyday life for CWA. Roles of family and therapist O’Toole (2014) remarks that it is the responsibility of parents to help their children overcome their “blindness” to the minds of others and reduce their anxiety, confusion, and rigid thinking. Parents can work with their children’s teachers and clinicians to use play to teach the skills they need. How can parents effectively teach their children interpersonal skills?
  16. 16. 15 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY Greenspan and Wieder (2006) instituted the Family First Initiative to help parents work with their children who show signs of autism early on in their development to assist in the development of emotional and social skills. The Family First Initiative has steps that follow each of the six FDLs. To help parents work with their children at each FDL, Greenspan & Wieder (2006) suggest games to build on the skills of each FDL. Greenspan & Wieder (2006) stated that it is important for parents to observe the child’s individual manner of reacting to sensory information to help facilitate shared attention and regulation. Observing what sensory stimuli make the child feel at ease or overwhelmed gives parents clues on how to engage the child and calm them. In order to assist in developing engagement and relating, it is important to observe what interests the children with autism and follow their lead. By following the child’s lead and partaking in what interests them you show them that you are interested in sharing what gives them joy. Greenspan (2006) discussed how he made a game of interacting with a child who was only interested in rubbing a spot on the floor during their session. Parents can also do the same when trying to interact with their children. Therapists also play important parts in play therapy. Landreth explains that one of the roles of a play therapist is to empathetically guide a child through experiences that are painful. In an interview with Carnes-Holt (2014), Landreth said that by stepping in and solving the child’s problem for them therapists teach them that they are too weak to handle it themselves. The role of therapists in play therapy is not to correct children’s problems, but to “relat(e) to children in ways that release their inner directional, constructive, forward-moving, creative, self-healing power” (Carnes-Holt, 2014, p. 60). Play therapists use children’s language of play to engage them on their level, rather than attempting to counsel children as if they were adults. Russo (2005) cautioned against the
  17. 17. 16 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY partaking in adultism, the disregard and disqualification of young people leading to resentment and/or loss of a sense of self. By engaging the children in play, therapists validate the child’s perspective and experiences. In the sessions, play is used as a way for therapists and children to deconstruct maladaptive behaviors and experiences and reconstruct them into more adaptive ways of engaging the world. Specific therapies There are various versions of play therapies available for children with autism. Some of these therapies that will be discussed include: the DIR/Floortime, filial therapy, and the PLAY Project Home Consultation Program (PPHCP). DIR stands for developmental, individual- difference, relationship-based and was developed by Greenspan and Wieder (2006). DIR/FloortimeTM is focused on helping CWA form relationships with their families and others rather than on merely managing the symptoms of autism. Filial therapy was initially developed by the Guerneys to train parents to be therapeutic agents in the lives of their CWA. Filial therapy is a form of child-centered play therapy that is focused on the parent-child relationship. The PLAY Project Home Consultation Program (PPHCP) was founded by Solomon and is a community-based model adapting Greenspan’s DIR/Floortime model. Each will be reviewed in its own section. DIR/FloortimeTM Model Greenspan and Wieder were unsatisfied with treatment programs that focused solely on limiting the surface level symptomatic behaviors of autism with a limited prognosis of the children’s potential development. Because of this dissatisfaction, Greenspan and Wieder designed the DIR/FloortimeTM to be tailored to each individual child to build on their strengths and to treat the underlying causes of their deficits. The developmental (D) refers to the functional
  18. 18. 17 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY developmental levels (Greenspan & Wieder), which were discussed earlier in this paper. The individual-difference (I) component of DIR refers to the child’s distinctive information processing abilities (Greenspan & Wieder). Relationship-based (R) refers to relationships through which children are able to learn and progress in their development (Greenspan & Wieder). Floortime is a specific strategy within the DIR that helps CWA increase skills in communicating with purpose and meaning, thinking logically and creatively, and interacting with warmth and pleasure. There are two main focuses of Floortime: following the child’s lead and joining in the world of the child in order to draw them into shared interactions. By following the child’s lead, parents learn what interests their child and use that interest to engage them. Additionally, this allows parents to help the child stay calm and able to learn by avoiding meltdowns caused by their CWA being unable to communicate their interests. Joining the child’s world stems from following the child’s lead. Parents are taught how to engage their child on their developmental level in what interests them, and to create opportunities for learning how to have back-and-forth interactions. Parents are also shown ways to make playful obstructions in order to combine the two focus areas of Floortime. For example, Hess (2013) discussed how parents can playfully obstruct their CWA from exiting a room by engaging them in activities that interest them. Playful obstructions follow the child’s lead while at the same time creating challenges they must solve; this allows CWA to progress in their functional developmental levels. There are four levels of Floortime that correspond with the first four FDLs (Pajareya & Nopmaneejumruslers, 2011). The first level is used for children who initially cannot express love and warmth or calm themselves. Floortime level 2 is used for children who were unable to engage in two-way communication using gestures or express many subtle emotions. The third
  19. 19. 18 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY level is used for children who are unable to verbally express their wishes or engage in pretend play. The fourth level is used for children who are unable to connect thoughts logically or hold conversations. Filial Therapy Filial therapy is a form of child-centered play therapy that trains parents to be therapeutic agents. Filial therapy was first developed by Bernard and Louise Guerney in the early 1960s as a long-term training program for parents, which normally was a year in length (Garza, Watts, & Kinsworthy, 2007). Guerney was in opposition to the common view of the time that parents caused their children’s issues, and instead believed that parents could be primary therapeutic agents (Ryan, 2007). Guerney argued that the reason parents can actually be therapeutic agents is that children show faster benefits from the continuity of interventions based on the parent-child relationship (Ryan, 2007). Filial therapy strengthens the parent-child relationship, decreases problematic behaviors in children, and increases parental acceptance of children. Filial therapy is based on didactic instruction, and supervision by therapists who give play demonstrations using kits of selected toys (Carnes-Holt, 2014). Landreth developed a filial therapy model known as Child Parent Relationship Therapy (CPRT): A 10-Session Model of Filial Therapy. Landreth developed his ten session model in order to make filial therapy more affordable for families who could not manage the cost of longer-term treatments. The focus of CPRT is to build on the parents’ and children’s relationship so it can be a therapeutic force to help the child fully become who they are meant to be. Filial therapy, in particular CPRT, has few limitations and is effective with a vast range of parents and children’s behavioral problems (Carnes-Holt, 2014).
  20. 20. 19 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY Parents participating in filial therapy receive training in a group format with a didactic component. In the group sessions, six to eight parents along with a facilitator and cofacilitator meet to discuss issues about themselves as parents or of experiences in their families. The didactic component consists of simple teaching points, “rules of thumb”, and engaging metaphors and stories. Parents are taught and practice in the group sessions child-centered play skills the facilitators model. In the group sessions, parents are taught how to engage in imaginative play led by their child and how to develop empathetic listening skills. Parents create 30-minute long videotapes weekly of them playing with their children using the play techniques they learned; the tapes are brought to the group sessions where feedback is given on the parent’s play skills. The PLAY Project Home Consultation Program The PLAY Project Home Consultation Program (PPHCP) was developed by Dr. Richard Solomon, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician. PLAY is an acronym standing for Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters. The PPHCP is based in southeast Michigan and is used in treatment centers in several different States. There are several clinical components to the PPHCP (Solomon et al., 2007). First, CWA receive medical consultation at the Ann Arbor Center for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics clinic and are referred to community centers. Second, parents and professionals receive training in the PPHCP partially through community-based workshops. Third, parents receive support and advocacy services through the Michigan Autism Partnership (MAP). The PPHCP is an affordable treatment plan costing around $2500/year depending on the number of visits, as opposed to between $25,000 and $60,000 per year for other treatment plans (Solomon et al., 2007).
  21. 21. 20 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY The PPHC is an autism intervention model mediated by parents based on Greenspan and Wieder’s DIR model (Solomon et al., 2007). PLAY consultants teach parents principles of play intervention and how to implement them. Parents are also instructed on how to recognize their child’s preferred way of relating along with their sensory motor preferences and deficits. PLAY consultants also assist parents in learning how to follow their child’s lead, observe their cues, and how to increase reciprocal interactions. The PCHP differs from the DIR/Floortime model in that it is a community-based intervention model with a manual, training, and evaluation method (Solomon et al., 2007). There are three typical settings where the PPHCP can be implemented. The first setting on which research studies have been based is at home visits. The second setting the PPHCP is typically implemented is at the clinician’s office. The third option is a hybrid of home and office settings. Most families who partake of the home visits have a 3-hour session every 4 to 6 weeks, totaling 10-12 visits a year (The PLAY Project, 2016). Families who go to the clinician’s office have 60 to 90 minute sessions two to four times a month. The PPHCP involves coaching, modeling, video recording of play sessions, and written feedback to the videos. The PPHCP has benefits for children of different ages. It is most effective as an early intervention, especially for CWA between the ages of 15 months to 6 years of age (The PLAY Project, 2016). There are also benefits for children over 6 years of age, as well as for adults with developmental disabilities. Children with other special needs or developmental delays can also benefit from the PPHCP. Experts in child development teach the parents how to build engaged relationships with their CWA through play. Parents and therapists work together to follow the child’s lead in order to improve on their social impairments. Parents always have access to one-on-one training,
  22. 22. 21 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY coaching, and support from their PLAY Project consultant. At the start of the program, parents and PLAY Project consultants work together to create a PLAY plan that is individualized and tailored to the needs of the child. There are seven things included in PLAY plans: 1) education on the PLAY Project principles and strategies; 2) assessment of the child’s comfort zone, sensory motor profile, and Functional Developmental Levels (FDLs); 3) a list of recommended activities specific to the child’s profile; 4) education on the PPHCP methods, including practical communication tips and how to follow the child’s lead; 5) a list of recommended PPHCP techniques suited to the individual child; 6) video recording and analysis; and 7) ongoing evaluation and updates (The PLAY Project, 2016). Efficacy Each of the three play therapy styles explored in this paper have different levels of efficacy. A discussion of the efficacy of play therapy as a general treatment will precede the discussion of the three specific styles’ efficacy. In order to determine the efficacy of play therapy in general and the three styles, research studies will be examined. The three styles will be discussed in the same order as in the previous section. Play Therapy as a General Treatment Barton, Ray, Rhine, and Jones (2005) conducted a meta-analysis of 93 controlled outcome studies of play therapy in order to determine the effect size (ES) of play therapy. There is a range of ES that was proposed by Baron-Cohen: 0.20 is small effect, 0.50 is medium, and 0.80 is a large effect (Barton et. al., 2005). The studies included in the meta-analysis were conducted between 1953 and 2000. Barton et al. examined studies that were published and ones that were unpublished in order to avoid publication bias. Eleven characteristics of the studies where examined, including:
  23. 23. 22 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY 1) treatment modality/theoretical model used; 2) treatment provider, either mental health professionals or paraprofessionals (predominantly parents, but also teachers or peer mentors) overseen by professionals; 3) setting of treatment; 4) duration of treatment; 5) treatment format (group v. individual); 6) presenting issues/target problem behavior; 7) type, number, and source of outcome measures; 8) ethnicity, gender, and age of the participating children; 9) published v. nonpublished document; 10) study design; and 11) source of child participants receiving treatment (clinical v. analog) (Barton et al., 2005). The studies in the meta-analysis were either humanistic-nondirective or nonhumanistic-directive (nonhumanistic meaning behavioral). There was a larger ES for studies that were humanistic- nondirective (0.92) than for nonhumanistic-directive (0.71). Studies where paraprofessionals administered treatment used filial therapy to train them. Studies with paraprofessionals had a very large ES (1.05) compared with a moderate ES of 0.72 for studies with mental health professionals. Additionally, studies focused solely on parents trained in filial therapy showed an even larger ES (1.15). Settings for the studies included schools, outpatient clinics, residential, and critical incident (i.e., hospitals, prisons, domestic violence shelters and natural disasters). The studies in residential settings had the largest ES (1.01), compared with a more moderately sized ES of 0.69 for school settings. Outpatient settings had an ES of 0.81, and critical incident settings had an ES of 1.00. Studies in the meta-analysis had three different treatment formats: group therapy led by professionals, individual therapy led by professionals, and individual therapy led by paraprofessionals who were mostly parents trained in filial therapy. Studies of individual therapy
  24. 24. 23 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY led by paraprofessionals had a large ES of 1.05. Studies of professional led group therapy had an ES of 0.73, whereas those focused on individual therapy led by professionals had an ES of 0.70. Barton et al. (2005) found a relationship between the number of sessions and ES. Studies where treatment duration was between 35 to 40 sessions showed optimal ESs; however, studies that were either much longer or shorter had diminished ESs. On the other hand, treatments in crisis settings with 14 sessions produced medium to large ESs. What can be drawn from this is that large ESs may be generated by shorter treatment durations, but the most benefit comes from durations of around 35 sessions. The studies in the meta-analysis overall did not show much relationship between the age or gender of the children and ES. The studies did suggest that play therapy is effective with a range of ages and for both genders. However, Barton et al. did caution that heterogeneous samples, large age ranges, and incomplete date did complicate interpretations of findings. The studies had different target problem behaviors and outcome measures. Studies that focused on internalizing problems had an ES of 0.81, while those that focused on externalizing problems had an ES of 0.78. Some studies focused on both internalizing and externalizing problems and had an ES of 0.93. Some studies did not focus on either internalizing or externalizing problems but on the adjustment, academic achievement, or personality; these studies had an ES of 0.79. Eight different treatment outcome measures were included by the studies: behavior, social adjustment, personality, self-concept, anxiety-fear, family functioning/relationships, developmental-adaptive, and other. Studies with family functioning/relationships as an outcome measure produced the largest ES (1.12). A large ES (0.90) was also generated by studies with developmental-adaptive as an outcome measure. Effect
  25. 25. 24 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY sizes of the other treatment outcomes ranged from 0.51 for self-concept to 0.83 for social adjustment. Barton et al. (2005) found a relationship between publication status of the studies and their ES. Published studies had a large ES of 1.04, compared with more moderate 0.77 for unpublished studies. They remarked that the studies did appear to show a publication bias, and also noted that perhaps only the studies that yielded higher ESs were published. Three different designs were used in the studies included in the meta-analysis: play therapy v. control, play therapy v alternate treatment, and play therapy v alternate treatment v. control. Studies with either play therapy v. control or play therapy v. alternate v. control designs produced large ESs; 0.89 for the former, and 0.82 for the latter. Studies that used play therapy v. alternate designs showed a slightly moderate ES of 0.79. The source of participants did have some impact on ESs. Studies with participants drawn from clinical sources (those already seeking help from clinical services) produced a large ES of 0.82. Studies with participants drawn from analog sources (volunteers recruited for the study) produced a slightly more moderate ES of 0.78. DIR/Floortime There were two measures of outcomes used in Pajareya and Nopmaneejumruslers’ (2011) pilot study. The first was the Functional Emotional Assessment Scale (FEAS). The FEAS was developed by Greenspan in 2001 and is an observational measure of children’s functional developmental. To determine FEAS scores, a 15-minute videotape of child-parent interactions using a standard set of toys (symbolic, tactile, and movement toys) (Pajareya & Nopmaneejumruslers). The other measure used was the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) and the Thai language version of the Functional Emotional Developmental Questionnaire
  26. 26. 25 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY (FEDQ). CARS rates autism symptoms on a 15-60 scale. The FEDQ is related to Greenspan’s six functional developmental levels (FDLs), and was completed by the parents as a pre- and post- test. Results showed great improvements for the DIR/Floortime group over the control group. The CWA in the DIR/Floortime group had an overall improvement score of 7.0 on the FEAS compared to only 1.9 for CWA in the control group. CWA in both groups showed improvements in the severity of their autism based on their CARS scores; however, CWA in the DIR/Floortime group showed statistically significant decreases in severity than controls. Pajareya and Nopmaneejumruslers (2012) also conducted a yearlong study of DIR/Floortime. Thirty-four CWA between the ages of 2 and 6 years of age were requited, as in the pilot study. Baseline FEAS scale score was 3.5 (Pajareya and Nopmaneejumruslers). The yearlong study did not contain a control group based on the ability of the pilot study to show results with the DIR/Floortime intervention in only three months. Parents met in groups with the investigators for three hours every month to discuss progress or concerns. Additionally, the parents had one-on-one follow up meetings with the investigators. The follow ups occurred at the end of the first and third month, and then were made every three months. During the follow up meetings, the investigators gave the parents feedback on their child’s progress and adjusted the techniques accordingly. As in the pilot study, The FEAS and CARS were used to measure improvements in the CWA. Forty-seven percent of the children made good improvement of 1.5 or more FDLs based on FEAS scores. Twenty-three percent made fair progress of 1 FDL. Twenty-nine percent made poor progression of only 0.5 FDLs.
  27. 27. 26 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY The results of the two studies show that the DIR/Floortime is an effective treatment. However, it is possible that there was so great an improvement in the children’s scores because they initially did not have many opportunities for interaction with their parents of the kind necessitated by DIR/Floortime. Also, the pilot study used the FEAS which is specific to DIR theory, and no other measures for cognitive skills or social functioning. Using other measures of outcomes would have been beneficial in order to gain a broader perspective of how the DIR/Floortime can improve the social and cognitive skills of CWA. Filial Therapy Beckloff (1997) conducted a study of filial therapy for families with CWA using Landreth’s ten session model of filial therapy. He wanted to establish the efficacy of filial therapy in five different areas. These include: 1) increasing parents’ empathy and acceptance of their children; 2) reducing parents’ problems with their children; 3) decreasing children’s social difficulties; 4) reducing the parents’ stress caused by parenting CWA; and, 5) parents’ measurement of reduction in their children’s stressors. The participants included 28 families with CWA. There were fourteen families divided into two groups who received filial therapy training: a group of four families who had day time meetings, and a group of ten who met in the evening. Some families in both groups dropped out bringing the total to 33 families who completed the study, 12 in the experimental group and 11 in the control group. The children in both groups were between the ages of 3 and 10 years old. The experimental group met for two hours every week for ten weeks where they received training in filial therapy methods, and then they were instructed to have 30-minute play sessions at home with their CWA.
  28. 28. 27 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY There were four different testing measures used at the beginning and conclusion of the study. Subscales of the Porter Parental Acceptance Scale (PPAS) was used to determine the effectiveness of filial therapy in increasing parents’ empathy and acceptance. The Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) was used to determine the reduction of parents’ problems with their children, as well as for decreasing children’s social difficulties. The Parenting Stress Index (PSI) was used to measure reductions in child stressors as parents reported. Results of the study were mixed, but overall positive. The only subscale where the experimental group saw statistically significant improvement on the PPAS was the “Recognition of the Child’s Need for Autonomy and Independence” subscale. Parents in the experimental group showed a positive trend of improvement on the rest of the subscales of the PPAS (“Respect for the Child’s Feelings and Right to Express Them”, “Appreciation of the Child’s Unique Makeup”, and “Unconditional Love”), but did not reach statistical significance. Behavior problems began to show reductions on the CBCL; however, there was no statistically significant level of improvement which may be due to a need for more sessions. Parents in the experimental group did remark that their children were beginning to show greater attempts at verbal communication and more imaginative play. Parents and CWA did not report significant reductions in stress on the PSI, which normally occurred in other filial therapy studies; this could be due to the study taking place near to the end of the children’s school year, or a need for more sessions in order to see more significant stress reduction. On the other hand, some parents in the experimental group did report that transitions were becoming more manageable for their CWA. The PLAY Project Home Consultation Program Solomon, Van Egeren, Mahoney, Quon Huber, and Zimmerman (2014) studied the effectiveness of the PLAY Project Home Consultation (PPHC) program. The study involved
  29. 29. 28 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY randomized control groups, which were not present in studies of other parent-mediated programs, and took place over the course of three years. Two hypotheses were tested: 1) that the parents in the PPHCP group would show improvement in their interaction skills and their children’s language, development, interaction skills, and improved symptomatology; and 2) that the parents in the PPHCP group would experience an increase in stress and depression than the parents in the control group due to the intensity of the PPHCP interventions. It was determined that 120 families would be necessary for the study. The families were broken up into two one year long cohorts, 12 per site of which half would receive PPHCP. To be included in the study, children had to be between 2yr8mo and 5yr11mo and have a diagnosis of autism based on DSM-IVTR criteria. Children were excluded from the study if they had a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome, genetic disorders, or if their parents have cognitive impairments or severe psychiatric disorders. Goals of the study were: 1) that children would progress through Greenspan and Wieder’s FDLs and 2) that parents would have decreased levels of stress and depression. Results showed improvements for both CWA and their parents. Over half of the CWA in the PPHCP group improved by at least one category on the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), compared to about 33% of CWA in the control group. The ADOS is an assessment for social and communication behaviors and is comprised of two modules: Module I for little to no phrase speech and Module 2 for use of phrase speech but lack of fluency (Solomon et al., 2014). Twenty-two percent of CWA in the PPHCP group improved so much on the ADOS that they were no longer considered being on the autism spectrum (Solomon et al.). Parents in the PPHCP group had significantly improved quality of interactions with their CWA
  30. 30. 29 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY compared to parents in control groups. Parents in the PPHCP group had decreased levels of depression more so than control parents. From the results, it is fair to say that the PPHCP is an effective treatment program. CWA had improvements in FDLs and on the ADOS. Parents also benefited from the PLAY interventions in that they were able to learn effective ways of engaging with their CWA, as well as having reductions in levels of stress and depression. However, Solomon et al. did caution that the drastic improvements seen on the ADOS in a year do not align with clinical experience. Critique There are many strengths of play therapy in general and the play therapy styles examined in this paper, but there are also several weaknesses in each strategy. Each play therapy styles will be examined in the order of the proceeding sections. Play Therapy as a General Treatment There are several aspects of studies of play therapy that need to be addressed. Studies need to be designed to include larger sample sizes. Barton et al. (2005) noted that smaller sample sizes can skew the ES of a study. Play therapy studies with homogeneous groups of children also need to be conducted. Having heterogeneous groups of both boys and girls in a study may impact the effectiveness of play therapy. Homogeneous groups of either boys or girls would allow for determination of which gender play therapy is more effective. DIR/Floortime The studies of DIR/Floortime examined in this paper only used measurements specific to DIR/Floortime theory. This lack of other measurement types, such as those for cognitive development or social functioning, gives an incomplete picture of other areas where DIR/Floortime may or may not be effective. Future studies need to incorporate other
  31. 31. 30 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY measurement types in order to more accurately assess the efficacy of DIR/Floortime. The results of the studies conducted in Thailand may be due to the parents’ more distant relationships with their children, as is the norm in Thailand. Studies of DIR/Floortime conducted in countries that have different approaches to parent-child interactions may see different levels of progress for CWA. Studies with other children in addition to the CWA should be conducted to in order to assess the stress implementing DIR/Floortime places on the parents, and to assess the feasibility of conducting play sessions when other children need attention. In both of Pajareya and Nopmaneejumruslers’ studies, families primarily only had one child so it is possible that the results may have been different if the families had more children. Filial Therapy Future filial therapy studies should make certain adjustments to Beckloff’s study. Studies that last longer than the ten weeks of Landreth’s model need to be conducted in order to determine if greater improvements would be shown for both the CWA and their parents. Studies should also begin earlier in the school to more accurately assess the ability of filial therapy to lower the stress of parents and their CWA. Beckloff (1997) noted that the lack of stress reduction in the experimental group may have been due to his study taking place at the end of the school year when things are more stressful for both parents and children. Studies that use Landreth’s ten week model should add a second weekly at home play session in order to produce higher levels of growth. Language skills should also be examined in future studies to determine if filial therapy has an impact on CWA’s development of language skills. Future studies with CWA around the ages of 2 and 3 years old should be conducted to determine if filial therapy as an early intervention can reduce the severity of social-affective deficits.
  32. 32. 31 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY The PLAY Project Home Consultation Program There are several aspects future studies of the PPHCP need to address. The parents in the most recent study by Solomon et al. (2014) all had higher education and of somewhat higher than average socioeconomic status (SES). A study needs to be conducted with parents with lower levels of education and SESs in order to determine if the results of Solomon et al.’s most recent study are generalizable. It is important to conduct studies where there is a clearer distinction between outside community services received by the families in both the control and experimental groups in order to clarify that the improvement seen in the PPHCP group came from the treatment method in question. However, Solomon et al. noted that the combination of community services with the PPHCP may lower the burden placed on parents. Long-term studies where child participants are grouped by language and cognitive level may also be beneficial to generalize the results of Solomon et al.’s study. Conclusion Autism spectrum disorder comes with deficits creating great issues in social engagement. Children with autism, much like their typically developing peers, speak the language of play; however, CWA speak it in a different dialect – so to speak – making it difficult to socialize with their peers and families. Play therapy is a means for children to learn the dialects of their peers and families, and develop further than would be possible with different forms of treatment. However, greater research needs to be conducted into the ability of play therapy to reduce or possibly eliminate the many social-affective deficits CWA face.
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  36. 36. 35 EFFICACY OF PLAY THERAPY The PLAY Project. (n.d.). FAQ for parents [Fact sheet]. Retrieved January 31, 2016, from http://www.playproject.org/parents/faq-for-parents/ Trice-Black, S., & Bailey, C. L. (2013). Play therapy in school counseling. Professional School Counseling, 16(5). 303-312. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/4973469/Play_Therapy_in_School_Counseling

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