How a Sock and Two Buttons Have Become a Therapist's Best FriendFriday 9th of May 2014 | Category: Baby News | Written by: Alex Gillham
Kermit and Miss Piggy have been back on our screens in Muppets Most Wanted, but puppets can also be used to help children with speech difficulties as well as entertain them.
Tackling the speech and language difficulties of children can be very difficult for therapists, but help has come in the form of something as simple as a sock with two buttons for eyes. Children with speech, language and behavioural difficulties are now finding solace in an unexpected source – puppets.
As we’ve seen Kermit and company tackle villains in The Muppet’s latest movie, puppets are also being used to tackle a range of problems by therapists who work with children. Puppet therapy, part of a wider treatment known as play therapy, is now one of the most popular techniques used to get children to open up.
This more unusual method of therapy can also be extremely effective – Emily Breden, Lead Arts Therapist at private speech therapist integratedtreatments.co.uk, explains “The ability of the puppet to take on different personalities and characteristics is highly appealing to children and as we have seen from the recent Muppets movies, many adults too. This makes the puppet a very versatile toy and therapy tool.”
The puppets used to treat children can range from a basic sock with buttons sewn on up to specially designed marionette puppets with fully formed personalities. Children can either talk to the puppet which is being controlled by the therapist, or manipulate the puppet themselves. Children can even make their own in a session as a therapeutic activity.
Puppets are also becoming a popular therapy tool because of their versatility – because they appeal to children so universally, they can be used in both one on one and group therapy sessions.
How does it work?
Puppets are used to tackle a whole range of difficulties, from children with autism who struggle to connect with the emotions of others, to those with speech and language disorders who may feel more comfortable communicating with a friendly, furry friend.
Puppets are also used to help children process their own emotions and use their imaginations to communicate their problems. Emily Breden explains: “Puppets can be highly personal and symbolic for the individual. They can give voice to the worries, anxieties and stories which the puppeteer may find difficult to verbalise on their own.”
Puppets can also help children and adults with very serious conditions, including cerebral palsy and brain injuries.
Puppets can be used for a whole variety of activities – simple conversation with the child, role play, symbolic play, or the puppet can take on a light-hearted but vital ‘witness’ role in therapy sessions. They can also be used to tell stories – including fairy tales, stories made up by the therapist or child, or even playing a role in the child’s own life story. Puppets can often represent a parent or a significant figure in the child’s life to help with communication.
As puppets are a tangible, physical and friendly prop, they can bring the best out of a child who may struggle with more traditional therapy methods. The best thing about puppets is that they are voiceless – and can help a child create their own voice. It also helps that the puppets can’t complain about all the work they’re doing either!
Puppets aren’t just for children either - they have also been known to help adults with severe communication or development difficulties.
Using Puppets at Home
Emily also suggests that puppet therapy can also work at home – “Many puppets can be bought in shops or on-line. It is also very simple to make your own puppet, the most simple being a sock puppet.”
There are some issues when it comes to puppet therapy – children would probably prefer to talk to a calm Kermit instead of an Animal, and some puppets may seem too scary or aggressive for more sensitive children. It is best to test out several puppets and personalities and see which one will work best.
Puppets can be a child’s best friend. They build confidence, imagination and self esteem, but above all they’re fun!
For more information on puppet therapy, visit Integrated Treatments Resource page: http://www.integratedtreatmentservices.co.uk/resource/puppets-therapy/.