Therapy As Play—Joyful Learning


When your child achieves a new milestone, it’s a true wonder. You think, “How are they doing this all by themselves?? Where’s my camera?!” Whether you share these pivotal moments; blog them, Instagram them, Facebook them, scrapbook them or simply hold them in your heart, they’re worth celebrating.

My daughter started grade one this year. Though cognitively she is approximately age four, she’s holding her own with her peers. She relies less and less on her Educational Assistant (who we are so thankful for by the way) and she’s making decisions, following routines, and learning with increasing independence.

From being warned that our child may never fully integrate into a class of her peers, to…this? I can’t express how thrilled we are.

So how did she come this far?

An initial diagnosis isn’t always the eventual reality. Sheer determination and moxy also factor in. Never underestimate moxy. It’s fierce. 

Family and friends have also been instrumental by providing us with the support and confidence we’ve needed to see us through challenging times. My father-in-law refers to us as, “Team Thornbury.” He’s right. We are a team. We just need jerseys. 

And finally, our community. If our child had been born somewhere else, without access to the medical and critical early intervention services we’ve received, I just don’t know…

ErinoakKids Centre for Treatment and Development is Ontario’s largest Children’s Treatment Centre – serving more than 13,000 children with disabilities and their families each year. Their participation in Avery’s development has made a world of difference.

This development centre works from a family-centred philosophy; their focus is on the strengths and resilience of their clients and their families. They have close connections throughout the community, and partner with school boards, other service providers, and hospitals in the delivery of care, including SickKids and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto.

Learning through play is a key component in everything they do. Avery loves participating in speech, physio and occupational therapy because of this. A room full of toys and a playful therapist’s undivided attention? My child doesn’t view these sessions as “therapy,” but rather as much anticipated play dates with (major) benefits.


Avery’s therapists are experts at knowing which toys will help develop fine motor skills, or which activities will help with balance and coordination.

I observe and take photos and try to replicate these activities at home.

“Therapy” sounds cold and clinical. But when you think of it as purposeful play, it suddenly becomes doable and even enjoyable. 

Play with your child. Guide them, but also allow them to explore and experience their surroundings in limitless ways. And when they achieve a new milestone, celebrate…hard. 

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