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Play Therapy UK (PTUK)’s 800+ registrants have 15 years’ experience of working in 1500+ primary schools with pupils who have a variety of special needs.  These fall under the general heading of emotional, behaviour and mental health issues.

In answer to the question about the range of special needs our evidence base shows that the following conditions have been successfully treated:

Abuse (Emotional, Physical, Sexual)



Attachment Issues      

Autistic Spectrum       

Behaviour Problems  

Bereavement / Loss   


Communication Problems

Delayed Development


Poor School Attendance           

Issues arising from Separated/Divorced Parents

Social Exclusion          


Unauthorised Absences

Under Performing (Academically, Socially, Culturally)

Withdrawn Personality

Although services can be sub-contracted, normally the most cost effective approach is to train school staff as Certified Practitioners in Therapeutic Play Skills.  This also has the benefit of closer integration within the school and reduced waiting times.

Although Play Therapy is not a miracle cure that will work for all pupils, it has a proven record of effectiveness:

·         Observations of referrers, normally a SENCO or Teacher show a 77% positive change using the Goodman Strengths and Difficulties (SDQ) measure.  (Based on 11,099 cases)

·         Observations of parents or carers, also show a 77% positive change.  (Based on 10130 cases)

The model recognises that each child is different and that most children cannot or do not want to talk about their problems.  It integrates non-directive and directive working.  Normally the child chooses from a wide range of therapeutic creative arts media such as drawing, music, sand tray worlds, clay, puppets, movement, creative visualisation and therapeutic story telling.  The therapist then communicates using the media that the child has chosen.

It is important that the risk in working therapeutically with children’s unconscious as well as conscious processes is managed well.  This entails training to meet the standards of the ‘Register of Play and Creative Arts Therapists’ as accredited by the Professional Standards Authority.  Short CPD training is insufficient and in some cases dangerous.  Clinical Supervision is also essential.

The question about the involvement of parents is very important since they should be the major agent of change. School staff can be trained in Filial Play Coaching.  This enables parents to be actively involved in alleviating their child’s special needs using the principles of non-directive play.

More information:

The register: www.playtherapyregister.org.uk

Training:  http://www.playtherapy.org.uk/TrainingCourses/TrainResourcesAccCourses1.htm

SENCO Week special consultation on introducing play therapy services into primary schools: email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.