Play Therapy and Special Needs Children

As CCTI teaches through our STOP Model in Module 1, Organized Play is a crucial piece to helping children heal from trauma. Please read through this article to better understand the philosophy behind play therapy.

Play therapy offers a variety of benefits for children who have not yet developed the verbal skills needed to express and process their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors articulately. As an educator who works with special needs children, play therapy has been one of the best tools! This technique helps us connect with our children in a fun and meaningful way. We are able to draw a child out of their shell and help them communicate with and relate more easily to others.

Child Playing with Adult for Play Therapy
This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-ND

How God has used us in the lives of these children

The Bible teaches that we are all made according to God’s image (Genesis 1:27). That includes all of us, even those with disabilities! My calling and ministry are to help children flourish not by focusing on their disabilities or delays but instead by identifying their self-worth, their God-given gifts, and strengths.

Our biggest challenge and how the Lord works through our ministry to bring healing and transformation is child abuse, specifically either verbal or emotional abuse. Children with exceptional physical or psychological needs can overwhelm their parents. Parents can feel overwhelmed, especially when there is no support system in the extended family, church, or community.

Some parents who visited our center didn’t recognize that their parenting styles are abusive. As believers and followers of Christ, we try to bring healing into this broken world by protecting those whom God has entrusted into our care and responding to abuse in a way that brings hope instead of hurt.

What can I do to avoid verbally abusing my child?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using what is called as the RETHINK method to bring your feelings under control. RETHINK stands for:

  • Recognize your feelings.
  • Empathize with your child.
  • Think of the situation differently (Try using humor).
  • Hear what your child is saying.
  • Integrate your love with your angry thoughts.
  • Notice your body’s reactions to feeling anger and to calming down.
  • Keep your attention on the present problem.

What are some examples of play therapy’s positive impacts on children?

As they become more comfortable with us and our bond strengthens, they become more creative or more verbal in their play. These are the results we have seen in our children through the use of play therapy:

  • Taking more responsibility for certain behaviors
  • Developing empathy and respect for others
  • Learning to fully experience and express feelings
  • Stronger family relationships
  • Learning to pray for their parents

How has COVID affected your ministry?

In June 2021, COVID hit Indonesia. Half of our educators were affected, including myself, and we had to shut down our center for 3 months. Some of our educators decided to resign due to fear and anxiety of coming to work in the midst of COVID rising. We offered therapy sessions online, yet it was challenging. Sitting in front of a screen with their children was an unending battle for parents, but God is good and faithful! We were able to recruit new, loving, and committed educators as our center reopened. Children were progressing well in terms of their learning skills, including those who took a break from therapy sessions. Children with speech and developmental delays have begun sounding out words and becoming more fluent in their speech. God takes good care of each one of us!

What resources might you be lacking to meet their needs emotionally?

Churches with an action plan/program to help address the verbal abuse issue, as well as an accepting community that is willing to guide and maintain the needs of these families.

How others can get involved?

Please pray for our Muslim educators to love and teach our children with the love and heart of Jesus! Pray for the special needs community so they might grow their faith in the Lord. Additionally, pray for more ministry partners and volunteers!


Ferawaty Lim has been working with special needs children for the past 14 years. She is currently living in Indonesia. Her goal is to bring awareness, hope, and the love of Christ to children and adults with developmental delays or emotional needs.

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