Using Play as Intervention

Adults can use play as a way to promote and support several areas of children’s development:

  • Social/Emotional: Special education teachers and general education teachers often use play intervention methods such as script rehearsal. This helps to promote young children’s pretend play abilities. For example, a teacher may rehearse with a child certain greeting words and social mannerisms.You can help your child enhance his social play skills by enrolling him in such activities as an Integrated Play Group (IPG). These groups are formed out of concern for children who are missing out on social play experiences. The groups combine children with social disabilities and their typically developing peers. As children play together, they practice social interactions, communication skills, and using their imaginations. In general, adult guidance and structure is required to help children with social and emotional disabilities to plan and organize their play activity.
  • Physical: It is important to create a safe play environment for children with physical disabilities. Materials and toys should also be safe and age-appropriate. Use materials that provide a variety of textures. Play dough, sand, and finger paint are a few examples. Also, plan activities that encourage exercise and movement for all body parts. Children with physical disabilities may also need adaptive materials in the home and school. These adaptations are usually recommended by a physical or occupational therapist.
  • Cognitive: To learn a specific play skill, children with cognitive disabilities may need to repeat it more often than typically developing children. Repetition of stories, games, and books are ways to work on these skills. During play, adults can show and tell a child how to do something by guiding his or her hands and body through the motions of an activity. Be sure your instructions are simple. Also, give your child plenty of warning when an activity is about to change or end.

Play » Links & Resources


Parham, Diane & Fazio, Linda, (1997). Play and Occupational Therapy for Children. Mosby-Year Book, Inc, USA.

Wolfberg, Pamela, (2003). Peer Play and the Autism Spectrum: The Art of Guiding Children’s Socialization and Imagination. Autism Asperger Publishing Co, USA.