Objects in transition: The puppet and the autistic child | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 1, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 2040-2457
  • E-ISSN: 2040-2465


Although claims for the efficacy of puppetry in therapeutic contexts lack extensive academic research, some published evidence does exist. A phenomenological and embodied approach is used here beginning with the writer's own experience as a mother to theorize on the puppet's role as a surrogate communicator and facilitator with children who lack communication skills. Instead of foregrounding language difficulties (as is often the case in writings on autism), this article focuses on the physical reality of a puppet. The writer explores notions of embodiment where neurological patterns are established through physical interaction with the world, and suggests ways in which this patterning may be interrupted or disturbed, and how puppets, as safe and to some extent controllable physical objects, may act therapeutically to re-establish some of these patterns. It is further suggested that puppets may work in similar ways to Winnicott's transitional objects in babyhood, operating in a transitional space. Winnicott claims that in a psychologically healthy adult, the comfort of infantile transitional objects and phenomena is transferred to religion, art and creativity activities that provide a bridge between the inner world that we totally control and the external world, which we do not. Such activities are linked to a creative space of mind and are psychologically necessary. Puppets operate in this space. Overall, stress is laid on the importance of the material reality of the puppet and its objectness to help explain its particular efficacy.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): autism; embodiment; object; puppet; therapeutic; transitional object
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