Every child has the right to play. Every child deserves to play. But not every child is capable of actively engaging, or enjoying play.
Adaptations are made for children with special needs in our schools’ classrooms. Their desks may be lowered or raised to accommodate a wheelchair. A child may have a special cushion to sit on to help he/she sit still. Some children may have more time on computers as they learn more easily through technology. Teachers wear special microphones to accommodate students with hearing difficulties. These are only a few examples of how we assist the education of children.
But do we pay close attention to play for children with special needs? Or do we take it for granted that children instinctively can and will play when given the time and opportunity? And what about those children who do not have obvious needs?
Making small adjustments in a classroom, or at home are quite simple. It just takes a little time to observe children, learn what they may have difficulty with and then provide the appropriate changes or additions to play that may be necessary. Set aside blocks of time to simply sit and watch your students, or children at home play. Do they socially interact with other children, or adults while playing or do they play by themselves, seperated from others. Do they get frustrated very quickly? Do they actively engage in the activity? Do they stay away from sensory activities (ie: water, sand, fingerpaint)?
There are several small adjustments that can help every child play and learn. Trial and error with different toys, times of day, length of play periods and even playmates may be necessary and may be a valuable learning experience for you, the adult.
Family physicians, special education teachers and community services are also valuable resources to use.
The most important things to remember are to observe children to learn what they might need, and to make adjustments so that every child can receive the most benefits that play has to offer.