Hender Care Play Therapist Thomasina Williams on Speaking the Language of Children

Words – Thomasina Williams

“We all know children play. What I think we sometimes forget as adults, is that play is not simply just a way to pass time – play is an essential component of child development and helps form the basic building blocks of their communication.”

Working as HenderCare’s Senior Play Therapist, Thomasina Williams is a passionate advocate for the role of play in child development. With a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education and a Master’s in Child Play Therapy behind her, Thomasina (or Tommie as she prefers to be called) has witnessed firsthand the benefits of implementing play therapy interventions.

“Play therapy can be particularly beneficial for children living with a disability, learning difficulty or other social challenges,” Tommie states. “For these children, a play therapy program implemented correctly can be used to address specific therapeutic goals which relate to a child’s wellbeing.”

Working with children aged two to 12, HenderCare’s play therapy service develops bespoke play-based interventions focused on the individual needs of the child. HenderCare’s Play Therapist uses a range of directive and non-directive play therapy modalities to assist the child to express explore and resolve social, emotional, cognitive and behavioural challenges.
For parents or caregivers who may not immediately understand the difference between play therapy and regular play, Tommie says, “Play is a child’s language and toys are their words. Play Therapists meet children at their level. They undertake years of training to be able to understand, assess and communicate through play. This gives them a window into the child’s world helping them understand the child’s feelings, needs, experiences and behaviours”.

Therapeutic services are in demand across the state as the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) continues to roll out. A part of HenderCare’s allied health services (which also includes physiotherapy, psychology, speech pathology and occupational therapy) HenderCare decided to offer play therapy to help ensure families had access to the services they needed.

As Tommie points out, early intervention is the key, “when a family is seeking support for their child, getting access to allied health professionals and services like play therapy is essential to avoid developmental delays. In offering this service we hope we are able to improve the outcomes for many young children in South Australia.

Getting to know Tommie

HenderCare’s Senior Play Therapist, Thomasina Williams is a mum herself and passionate advocate for the role of play in child development. Here’s what you need to know about her:
I have a Bachelor of Early Childhood Educator and a Master’s in Child Play Therapy
I’m a registered practitioner with the Australasia Pacific Play Therapy Association (APPTA)
I’m the mum of a three-year-old, so I’m an expert (and slightly tired) negotiator
I’m completely dedicated to helping children with disabilities or social challenges experience improved wellbeing – it’s absolutely the best part of my job

Play Therapy FAQs

Here, Tommie answers some of the most common questions she is regularly asked about play therapy.

What is play therapy?
Play Therapy is a developmentally appropriate approach for working with children. Because children’s language development lags behind their cognitive development, children make sense of their worlds through play. Play is a child’s natural language and Play Therapists are specially trained in this language. Play Therapists use play to communicate with children and assist them to express and explore their feelings, needs, behaviours and experiences supporting them to achieve optimal growth and development.
What are ‘directive’ and ‘non-directive’ play modalities?
A directive approach is one in which the therapist will largely direct the activities and pace of the play therapy session. Whereas, a non-directive approach sees the child take the lead and have more control in the direction of the session.

Do Play Therapists have to be qualified?
No. Currently there is no minimum qualification to be a Play Therapist. Many people call themselves Play Therapists who have done little training. It’s essential when selecting a Play Therapist that you make sure you confirm their qualifications; ensure they have postgraduate training in play therapy or look for their registration with a relevant industry body like APPTA (Australasia Pacific Play Therapy Association) or APTA (Australia Play Therapists Association).

What are some of the benefits of play therapy?
Depending on the needs of the individual child, your play therapist will work with you to set therapeutic goals. Examples of these goals could include: enhance and develop; relationships, play skills and self-esteem, improve; social skills, self regulation and coping skills, assist with processing and expressing emotion, cultivating empathy towards others, and assist in developing new and creative solutions to problems.

Do I need a Doctor’s referral for my child to see a Play Therapist?
No referral is required.
Is play therapy available under my child’s NDIS funding?
Depending on the supports outlined in your NDIS Plan, you may have access to use your child’s NDIS funding for the sessions. Private paying families are also able to attend.

To find out more about HenderCare’s play therapy service or other allied health services, please call 1300 764 433 or visit hendercare.com.au.

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