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Spotlight : Play therapy for the autistic

Date: 14 June 2007

SHAMINI DARSHNI and MALINA JEYA PALAN For years, few knew how to deal with children with emotional or mental health problems. But a new method ó play therapy ó has been devised to allow children, including the autistic, to express their feelings, write SHAMINI DARSHNI and MALINA JEYA PALAN Play therapy, a new concept to Malaysia, uses play techniques in a therapeutic manner to help children deal with problems. TOYS, music, art, movement and even story-telling are being used to help children with excessive emotional behaviour or mental health problems. Play therapy, a new concept to Malaysia, uses play techniques in a therapeutic manner to help children deal with problems. Play Therapy International (PTI) president Monika Jephcott said it was used to help children with abuse, anger, autism, attachment, communication, delayed development and withdrawn personality issues. It also helps children with separated or divorced parents, poor school attendance and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). "The unique aspect of play therapy is that it encourages children to heal themselves in their own time," she said. Jephcott said it was all about children communicating with people. "We donít ask questions. Itís an opportunity for them to play out their feelings and problems." According to statistics from the United Kingdom, one in five children have mental, behavioural or psychological problems, while one in 10 have mental health problems. Play therapists in Britain work with children in schools, hospitals, foster homes and in other social services. Experts are excited as statistics show that children who have undergone play therapy improve by 70 per cent. This is why a local non-governmental organisation, Protect and Save The Children (P. S. The Children) is collaborating with PTI to train play therapists here. To date, 70 Health Ministry officials, nurses, sexual assault police, counsellors, university lecturers, psychologists and teachers are undergoing the certificate in therapeutic skills course (play therapy). Of this, 40 will complete their course by November. The recently-formed Play Therapy Malaysia will govern the standards of play therapy in Malaysia. According to PTI statistics, of the children who manifest mental, emotional and behavioural problems, two-thirds are boys, who also seem to suffer the most effects. Protect and Save the Children director Madeleine Yong, who is initiating Play Therapy Malaysia, hoped to see trained local play therapists in schools and shelter homes. This article was first published in NST Online, Saturday, May 26, 2007.

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