“Play therapy,” such as DIR, for students with autism has been known to be effective for a long time now by many who are in or are working with the autism community, but until recently has lacked scientific proofs.
This is a CBS News report of scientific studies from York University in Canada that have resulted in research based data that supports the efficacy of this type of training.
You can view it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2MZw7Ugccw&feature=youtu.be
It is not surprising to me that the ability to engage and interrelate with our peers is developed in the young through play. Children with autism are often deprived of that development due to deficits that – without appropriate training – overwhelm them and cause them and their non-autistic peers to withdraw from each other.
For parents of children with autism, these “play-based” therapies are certainly worth looking into, and the growing scientific support can be utilized to seek such therapies in a school-based setting.