The authors of this study measured the impact of a school-based, integrative approach to play therapy (PT) on four elementary- and middle-school-aged students with autism and their classroom instructors. The play therapist conducted 15 weekly PT sessions with each student to work on their social and emotional awareness individualized education program (IEP) goals and then debriefed students’ instructors to encourage generalization of PT outcomes to the classroom setting. A combination of quantitative and qualitative data were collected, including the Autism Social Skills Profile, psychometric equivalence-tested goal attainment scales aligned with students’ IEP goals, case notes, and end-of-intervention interviews with classroom staff. Findings indicated that three students made gains on the Autism Social Skills Profile, and that all students made more progress than expected on IEP goals, both during PT sessions and in the classroom. Further, students’ instructors described substantial benefits associated with post-PT session debriefings with the play therapist, including improved rapport with students and better understanding of strategies for supporting them during challenging situations.
Describe how play therapy sessions helped improve students’ social and emotional learning.
Describe how therapist/teacher debriefs helped improve teachers’ rapport with their students.
Identify several strategies for supporting students during challenging moments and for helping students generalize skills to the classroom setting.