World first study shows play therapy can help ADHD children

27 June 2011

A new Australian pilot study has found that play therapy can help children with ADHD learn how to play better with others.

The study was conducted by Professor Anita Bundy, Chair of Occupational Therapy at the University of Sydney and Dr Reinie Cordier in collaboration with occupational therapy honours student Ms Sarah Wilkes-Gillan.

Professor Bundy says many children with ADHD have problems making and keeping friends.

'What we know is that many children with ADHD can have problems understanding social cues. They find it difficult to learn the social skills that other children learn, and this may mean they have very few friends.' Professor Bundy said.

'They seem to miss cues like fear or boredom in their playmates. They are not necessarily empathetic.'

The team studied two groups of children with ADHD and introduced play therapy in a clinic-based environment.

'The children brought a playmate or a sibling and were then videoed playing with each other and the therapists. The therapists exaggerated cues, so that the children could understand and learn'.

The parents of the children with ADHD have been encouraged to replicate the play behaviour at home.

'What we found was that the children learnt social skills through play and repetition'.

The study is still a pilot at this stage, but it's hoped there will soon be significant funding to expand the programme.

Ms Wilkes-Gillan will be presenting the findings at the Occupational Therapy Australia Conference, June 29 - 1 July, 2011.