“Concrete words, abstract words, crazy words and lying words, hazy words and dying words, words of faith and tell me straight, rare words and swear words, good words and bad words…What are words worth?” Tom Tom Club, Wordy Rappinghood.
Words, we adults love them and we rely heavily on them to communicate how we feel and to find out how others feel. Don’t get me wrong they can be really useful, but with children we can use play to find new ways to communicate.
As a play therapist I have worked with children and adolescents of all abilities. I want to share with you two examples of how play can transcend language and how it helped two boys who had an extremely limited physical ability to speak, find a new way to communicate. Douglas was 17 when I worked with him. He lived in a residential care setting with other young adults with complex physical and learning needs.
Douglas had been a Looked After and Accommodated Child since he was an infant. His parents were unable to care for him due to their addictions, and as a baby Douglas contracted Encephalitis which left him with profound learning difficulties and limited physical ability. When Douglas came to sessions with me it was messy! He loved the sensory elements of play in the room and was really drawn to the trays of sand, particularly the dry sand. Douglas would spend the majority of his time in sessions putting figures (toys) in the sand, repeatedly burying them and then repositioning them. It was hard to say accurately what he was trying to communicate through his play but when I spoke to his key workers and his dad about how much he enjoyed playing with the sand they bought a sand tray for him to use at home. They noted how relaxed the sand made him, and they used it as a way to connect with him. Often when dad came to visit they would play with the sand together and they both took a lot of pleasure in this time.
I met Adrian at his school which specialised in educating children with social and communication difficulties. When living with parents Adrian was severely neglected as a baby, often left for hours on his own without any stimulation, living in a home were there was lots of violence between his parents. His home environment was still chaotic and this made me think not only about his autism but his attachment style. Adrian was 12 when we worked together and it was only on very rare occasions that he made sounds or the occasional word. For several sessions Adrian explored the toys in the room and I escorted him on his discoveries. He then took to lying on a table, curled up in a ball, as if to go to sleep. I took this as a cue that he was looking for nurture, given his early life experiences. I would get him a cushion and a blanket and then sit at the side of him and repeatedly sing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’. The experience was a powerful one for both of us, and after several weeks of doing this Adrian one day gave me a keyring out of his pocket: which I understood as a “thank you”. After that Adrian was able to move on in his play, he had achieved something developmentally; though he did still like to lie down on occasions when his play had been strenuous. Maybe you have a child who is non-verbal or struggles to communicate verbally?
Maybe you have a child who has the physical ability to speak but only really communicates through their behaviour in very physical ways or through powerful silences. Do you feel like your words are wasted? Our need to communicate verbally can make us feel diminished when we don’t get a verbal responses back.
So let Yoni and I show you a different way, a different path. A Course in Relationship Based Play (RBP) will give you the tools to further developing your relationship with your child(ren) through the power of play. Our insights will help you to reframe how you understand and use play in ways that will empower you and your child(ren).
WRITTEN BY KEELEY CRAW, PLAY THERAPIST
To attend our session on The Power of Play on Thursday 12th November 2020 at 8.00 PM. Join us LIVE in the following Facebook groups Or on Youtube:
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