Ways Lifelike Dolls Can Help People With Autism And Learning Disabilities


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There are new types of therapies that are on the rise for individuals with autism as well as with learning disabilities. People are aware of how beneficial service dogs are, however, they are quite costly. However, there is a much-cheaper therapeutic option on the rise and that is utilizing lifelife or reborn dolls for therapeutic purposes for children with autism and learning disabilities.

Are you wondering how dolls can possibly help individuals with autism and learning disabilities? Let’s now go over the 4 ways that individuals with these conditions can be helped with lifelike dolls:

1. Communication Skills Are Improved

It is a known fact that many people with autism have speech delays and speech difficulties. People with learning disabilities can also have trouble with some forms of communication, and these lifelike dolls can help people with these conditions with improving their communication skills in many ways.

One way is that when therapists or caregivers simply name the dolls and sound them out, this can help them distinguish the names of each doll by enunciating them out loud. One reason that many kids with autism have a difficult time with learning speech is that it is difficult for them to discern and detect between different elements of sound in everyday speech.

When the parents or therapists are pretending that the dolls are talking, this intrigues these kids and as a result, they will have an easier time with developing communication. The tone of voice that is used will make a difference which is why teachers and therapists using the dolls for communication purposes will pretend the dolls are talking in tones that the kids are receptive to.

There was a case in 2016 where these 6-year-old autistic boys in Sweden were helped with their communication skills by the use of these dolls. The kids were given sounds that consisted of both vowels and consonants as the therapists were making those sounds as they were showing these boys the dolls. The dolls were named Bibbi and Titti to help them differentiate between the sounds. The boys imitated what was said to them as well.

2. Improving Coordination And Dexterity

Doll therapy can help children on the autism spectrum and have learning disabilities by helping them increase and improve their coordination skills and dexterity. They can do this by button up the doll’s shirts, zipping their clothing, and tying strings on the dolls as well. The more they practice by working their hands and fingers on the doll’s clothing, the stronger they will become.

This also means they will have an easier time tying their shoes and using keys. In fact, Jennifer Brady who works at the Irish charity Billy’s Dolls of Comfort said that she visited several classes of children with autism in a few schools. The kids were working on these dolls by tying their laces, buttoning their aprons, and working with other objects that are tactile. She stated that the use of doll therapy for these purposes in schools has been successful for these kids.

3. Kids On The Autism Spectrum Can Become More Interactive With The Help Of Doll Therapy

Dolls can help children on the autism spectrum become more interactive, help improve their social skills, and help them warm up to new things. That is because these dolls are comforting and will help these children ease themselves into doing tasks that are not familiar to them.

In fact, a mother of a young autistic daughter, Helen Nichols who is the editor and chief at Well-BeingSecrets.com raved about how much her daughter Betty blossomed when she was given an interactive doll called Ask Amy. The doll looked like Betty which likely had piqued interest.

The little girl developed better communication skills, increased her horizons by becoming interested in new things such as music, and began to warm up to other kids. Not only did this doll help the girl’s communication skills which were already covered in the first point. However, she developed an interest in interacting with other kids.

lifelike baby doll wrapped in blanket

4. Dolls Can Help Kids On The Autism Spectrum Become Empathetic And Regulate Emotions

Because of the fact that the purpose of doll therapy is to help people with autism to develop better communication and social skills, kids will benefit as well by learning to regulate their emotions. They will also become more empathetic. Kids with autism will begin to understand feelings of anger, sadness, happiness, excitement, as they are interacting with the dolls.

As the case of the little girl with autism, Betty was mentioned above, the interactive doll also helped her understand her emotions which were also why she developed an interest in interacting with other kids in the end. In order to improve anyone’s social skills, learning to regulate emotions is important. The development of empathy will follow.

There are many therapies that are effective for children with autism such as Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), music therapy, speech, and language therapy, occupational therapy, social skills therapy, play therapy and more. Adding doll therapy in addition to the other therapies listed can help these kids end up having a better chance in life. That is because of their communication skills, dexterity and coordination skills, and emotional regulation will be improved with the help of incorporating dolls.

Even though children with learning disabilities do not usually have the same degree of challenges as children with autism, doll therapy can benefit them as well.

However, it is important to note that there are two concerns with dolls when it comes to them being incorporated into therapies for kids with autism. The concerns are:

  • Increase In Obsessiveness And Attachment – People with autism have a tendency to become too attached to an object or an idea. Kids with the condition may do well as a result of doll therapy, but it becomes problematic when the child does not want to let the doll go out of his or her sight. That can increase obsessive behavior and anxiety in the child. That means it is best to limit the time the child spends with the doll.
  • Dolls That Cry Can Cause Anxiety – Some lifelike dolls will cry and even though this feature is meant to help kids develop empathy, it can cause anxiety instead. There are some dolls that will not cry and if a child is showing anxious behavior as a result, then it is defeating the purpose.

However, there are more advantages than disadvantages when it comes to doll therapy. Many children on the autism spectrum have been helped as the examples above have shown that. Therapists, teachers, caregivers, and parents should most definitely incorporate the use of doll therapy to help children with autism and learning disabilities improve their communication, social, and coordination.

Click here to read about art therapy for children and adults with autism.

References

Team SafeSleep

Hi! We're a team of scientists, doctors, teachers, and coaches experienced in helping people with special needs. We hope you like our research and share it with others who might find it helpful too :)

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