Productive play is a crucial foundation for successful interaction with the world as well as a source of life satisfaction. Yet for many children with disabilities, developmental delays and diagnoses such as autism spectrum disorder, play can pose a significant challenge, resulting in restricted play that impedes other developmental areas such as social and communication skills, and resulting in social isolation or withdrawal. Inhibited play also impedes the development of life and self-care skills.

Group therapy can vastly enhance a child’s social integration and quality of life through a range of group exercises and classes such as art and cooking, which simultaneously develop social and life skills and enhance self-confidence. Designed by a children’s occupational therapist, group recreation activities can help participants to identify their interests and connect with peers with common interests. Children often leave with a sense of connectedness, competence, accomplishment and satisfaction.

For children with challenging behaviours, engaging in satisfying leisure activities often results in decreased acting out – in part because the ability to entertain oneself helps participants to self-soothe and regulate their emotions and behaviours.

Social skills and communication skills
  • Promotes interaction with similar-aged peers and adults
  • Develops positive relationships with peers and improves confidence in socialising with others
  • Increases awareness of appropriate, context-specific social behaviour (e.g. no screaming and spitting in public)
  • Improves social skills (e.g. initiating conversation with peers, turn-taking)
  • Improves emotion regulation and self-soothing skills
  • Increases empathy with other people’s feelings and thoughts
Skill-related benefits
  • Improves body balance/coordination
  • Enhances daily activity skills (e.g. washing dishes, wiping table, organising/sorting materials, cleaning up)
  • Improves bimanual hand function
  • Improves gross and fine motor skills (e.g. holding a pen/ball)
Types of groups
  • Aquatic therapy
  • Physical activities and exercises
  • Art and craft activities
  • Cooking class