Autism & Sensory Issues


How does Theraplay® help kids with ASD or sensory processing issues?

Theraplay helps kids experience intrinsic joy in relating with others and fosters natural social skills, as well as improving emotional regulation, flexibility, and self-esteem. Theraplay works to help kids feel safe with changes in routine or small disappointments by increasing their sense of "felt safety" and their trust in the world around them. 

Theraplay can also help children feel more comfortable tolerating a growing range of sensory experiences, such as new sounds, textures, or ways of moving. We will use the strengths of your child to grow their repertoire of "safe" sensory activities.


Is Theraplay like Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)? 

The short answer is no. ABA is a behavioral approach that works to shape your child's behaviors through rewards and consequences. In ABA you will work to understand the motivation of your child's behavior, and then use that understanding to change their behavior. Often material rewards, such as tokens, candy, or stickers, are used to reinforce desired behaviors. 

Theraplay is a relational approach.  In Theraplay, you will work to nourish a deep and influential relationship with your child. "Negative" behaviors are understood as the surface-level expression of an underlying emotional, relational, or sensory need. These "bad" behaviors are a signal that your child is having a hard time- a cry for help. So together, we will work to understand the meaning of your child's behavior in order to help him. Over time, through understanding patterns in your child's behavioral "signals," we may make adjustments to the flow of his day in order to help him have fewer behavior problems. 

Theraplay's goal is to make healthy behaviors intrinsically or socially rewarding for your child, without relying on material rewards. In Theraplay, we believe that your child genuinely wants to do well, he just needs a little help getting there.


Can Theraplay help non-verbal kids?

Yes! Over 90% of social communication is non-verbal. In Theraplay we are focusing almost exclusively on this 90%, even with very verbal children. In some ways, pre-verbal or non-verbal children actually have an easier time benefitting from Theraplay than those with big vocabularies. 


What symptoms do you treat?

  • Defiance, stubbornness

  • Social withdrawal, social anxiety, or loneliness; lack of same-age friends

  • Lack of impulse control

  • Lack of cause-and-effect reasoning

  • Consequences or rewards often have little impact changing child's behaviors

  • Frequent irritability, aggression

  • Depressed mood

  • Tantrums, rages and sensory meltdowns

  • Difficulty with social skills, such as eye-contact, turn-taking, understanding the feelings or motivations of others, etc.

  • Sensory sensitivities or defensiveness; sensory seeking behaviors

  • Problems sleeping; insomnia  

  • Trouble keeping up with personal hygiene tasks

  • Learning problems, often diagnosed as "executing functioning problems" in evaluations

  • Anxiety, fears, and obsessions

  • Perfectionism and rigid expectations of others

  • "OCD like" behaviors

  • Difficulty tolerating transitions, changes in plans, or small, everyday disappointments

  • Low self-esteem



More questions? Want to schedule a consultation or first appointment?