“Practicality, efficiency and comfort” have all been touted as the keys to effective therapy for ADHD, as well as for many other conditions.
Now, research has found that using the right toys can be as effective as taking them off altogether, if not more so.
“In our clinical experience, there is not much difference in efficacy between playing with different kinds of toys and not playing with them,” says Dr. Peter J. R. Schulte, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University.
“The difference is that if you’re not doing anything, the brain doesn’t need the toys and you can get a positive reaction to the toys without actually having to use them.”
As a result, some researchers are recommending that children be given the option to buy their own toys for therapy instead of using them.
“If we’re going to do this, we need to get it right,” says Schultes research assistant and doctoral student in psychiatry and behavior sciences, Kristin L. Hargreaves.
“In a nutshell, we don’t want children to play with toys that are so complicated that they cause them to lose their ability to function in everyday life.”
Dr. Jody W. Williams, a professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University and author of a recent book on the topic, recommends that children who are diagnosed with ADHD get a toy with them on the day they are first diagnosed.
“Parents should also be aware of their childrens ADHD and their individual ADHD treatment options,” she adds.
“These tools can help to provide a sense of purpose, a sense that they are doing something worthwhile, and a sense for how the child feels, both positive and negative, and for how they may function in the future.”
In the meantime, parents may want to consider how to get their kids to take a cue from their parents, and not to play alone at all.
“I would say to parents that this isn’t about playing with one toy or one person; it’s about giving your child a sense about the different types of toys they might want to play,” says Hargres, who also works with families at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“We don’t know what kind of toys these kids want to buy; we don.
We’re hoping that this provides them with a sense where they can get the kind of information they need to be successful in their therapy.”
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