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Neurodiversity Affirming, Child-Led, Play Based?! A Parents Guide to Therapy Approach Terminology.

Updated: Jan 18

Child playing with toys in speech therapy.

Do you ever wonder what it means when therapist say they are neurodiversity affirming, child-led, or play based? I'm here to break it down and show you exactly what to look for in providers for your child.

Neurodiversity Affirming Therapy

Neurodiversity encompasses a range of neurological differences, such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and other differences in neurotypes. A neurodiversity affirming therapist will embrace and celebrate the unique strengths and perspectives that neurodivergent individuals bring to our world, instead of viewing these differences as disorders that need to be fixed. Neurodiversity affirming therapists use a strengths based approach rather than a deficits based approach.


In child-led therapy sessions, children's interests and preferences are used during therapy activities. Child-led therapists are able to address children's goals into anything your child is most interested in. In child-led sessions, children's interests are valued. In child-led therapy, there is no "work then play" because the whole session is based in the child's interests... which is play! Child-led therapists are able to follow a child's lead and work therapy targets into those interests. Sessions that are child-led do not mean that the child can do anything that they want as there are expectations and rules, however, it is more flexible and the child has a say in the activities and guides the session with their interests.

Play Based

Play based therapy means that play is the way the child learns new skills in therapy. If therapy looks like your child is "just playing" that means your therapist is doing it RIGHT! Children learn best through play. Young children are not meant to be sitting at tables and doing drill work. Children learn by interacting with their environment whether that is through gross motor play, play with toys, or even people play. Play based therapy is NOT "first we do this, then you get to play with your toy" and it is NOT "if you do your work, you get to play with your toy at the end." Play based therapy embeds play throughout the entire session while working on goals.

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