We shouldn’t have ‘play’ goals for Autistic kids

by Adina Levy

Here’s something to ask yourself:

How do you view ‘play’ when you’re doing therapy sessions with children, or teaching children?

When it comes to Autistic children, does your answer change at all?


If you believe, have been taught, and practice that Autistic children need to be ‘taught play skills’ I’m going to unravel this a bit for you. Stick with me!

So many of us have done training over the years to learn about how to “teach play” to Autistic kids (I sure did, years ago).

Here’s the thing. Autistic children may play in different ways than allistic (non-autistic) children. But their play is still play. And it’s fine.


I don’t believe that we therapists should have ‘play’ goals for Autistic kids.

A neurodiversity affirming approach to support is all about honouring the way that each individual chooses to play, explore, and interact with their world.

When we ‘teach play’ and have play goals for a child, in most cases this is more about teaching ‘neurotypical styles of playing’ rather than honouring and joining in with actual fun, enjoyable-for-the-child, Autistic play.


Play doesn’t have to look a certain way.

Play doesn’t have to follow a developmental trajectory.

Play has to be fun, engaging, enjoyable

If the fun and enjoyment stops, then it’s not play anymore.

I don’t see that play is the end point or the goal. Play is the vehicle for learning and interactions. Watch play, engage in play (if the child is happy for you to do so), share space in play, learn and teach through play. But don’t ‘teach play’.


Sincerely, an Autistic speechie, whose play is just fine thanks!

I have so many more thoughts about play – if you’re curious, I hope you’ll listen in to my 12 minute podcast episode ‘The Role of ‘Play’ in Speech Therapy for Autistic Children’​

If you’re a Speech Therapist and you found this helpful,Β check out my course ‘Affirming Communication for Autistic Children‘ to learn more!

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