Play is considered to be an important occupation; however, it is often neglected in therapy. Knowledge of the importance of play and the typical barriers to including play in occupational therapy may help practitioners remove those barriers. Engaging in a more joyful and playful therapy session provides benefits for the child and the clinician.
Heather Miller-Kuhaneck, PhD OTR/L FAOTA, has practiced in pediatrics for over 25 years in rural and inner city schools, outpatient clinics specializing in OT using sensory integrative intervention, early intervention settings, inpatient settings, and privately in children’s homes. She currently is an associate professor at Sacred Heart University, teaching the pediatric content of the occupational therapy program and courses in research. Mrs. Kuhaneck is an editor or co-editor of three editions of Autism: A Comprehensive Occupational Therapy Approach, published by the American Occupational Therapy Association, a co-author of Activity Analysis, Creativity, and Playfulness in Pediatric Occupational Therapy: Making Play Just Right and a co-author of the Sensory Processing Measure and the Sensory Processing Measure-Preschool. She has written a variety of chapters, articles, and CE on CD on intervention with children with autism, promoting family resilience and coping in mothers of children with ASD.
This chapter will answer all of the “W” questions in relation to play: Who plays? What is play? Where does play occur? When does play occur? Why does play occur? Each answer will be supported with evidence from the literature.
This chapter will briefly explore this history of the use of play in occupational therapy and will discuss the role of OT in play as promoted by our national association AOTA and leaders in the profession through their writings. Recent research documenting the actual use of play in occupational therapy in the US and internationally will highlight the barriers therapists must overcome.
This chapter will discuss the role of play in child development, theoretically and empirically. Specific evidence documenting the importance of play for children will be highlighted to allow therapists to use this evidence to defend their choices for intervention approach. For each of the barriers discussed in Chapter 2, specific strategies to overcome them will be provided here with the goal of encouraging therapists to more frequently use play in their sessions, no matter their practice area.