“I Think She’s Forgiven Me”: Utilizing the Language of Play to Nurture Connection between a Nonverbal Child and Their Mother

Julia Whitaker, Chika Matsudaira


The ability to communicate, to understand and share meaning, is a salient feature of human development, crucial for integration in, and acceptance by, the social group and for the emergence of a sense of selfhood. Human infants are primed to communicate through playful interaction from the moment of birth and play remains the primary mode of communication throughout childhood, accessible by all ages and abilities. Play is integral to the development of intersubjectivity on which all human connection depends, and which is vital to social acceptance and emotional wellbeing. This paper describes the way in which play represents a mode of metacommunication when a child is diagnosed with a serious illness or disability as a means of sharing meaning around healthcare experiences. A case example from the Japanese context illustrates the way in which the Health Play Specialist uses the language of play to nurture connection in a parent-child dyad living with a diagnosis of neurological impairment, reinforcing the need for wider recognition of the role of play as the universal language of childhood.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.22158/sssr.v4n4p145


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