AOn a round gray rug, three dolls sit in front of two plates, each with a fork. Behind it there is a cake cut into pieces with five candles and a “4” inserted on it, next to it there is a cake server. All in pink. A step further, a dragon with outstretched wings and a knight with a sword on a horse face each other, flanked by colorful cubes open on one side. For a normal playroom, this room would be a little sparsely furnished, the same goes for the neighboring rooms. But that doesn’t apply here. The room is part of the new Institute for Autism Research and Therapy at the University of Marburg.
Toys are a means to an end. The psychotherapists and behavioral therapists at the establishment, affiliated with the Clinic for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, wish to specifically support autistic children and young people. These girls and boys cannot cope with the widespread abundance of stimuli. Young customers should one day be able to cope as best as possible with the changing demands of everyday life. One step in therapy is finding a toy that suits the child and being able to work with it. Children can choose their own toys, but not just any toys. The institute rather offers a selection. Psychologist Anika Langmann, who is responsible for the therapy, calls this “guided freedom”.