Play and Children with Disabilities
Children can experience a variety and/or combination of disabilities that can affect their ability to play. Disabilities can be physical, intellectual, or emotional and can range in severity from mild to profound; nevertheless, all of these children have some capacity to engage in play. Their play abilities are different and of a lower sophistication than those of their peers without disabilities, but with adaptations provided by adults and interventions to help them experience a broader range of play activities, they can benefit from opportunities to play.
It is difficult to categorize the play needs of children with disabilities because the nature of the disability and the abilities of children are unique to each individual. Children with multiple disabilities pre-sent more challenges because the interaction of disabilities impacts different developmental domains in play.
Adults play an important role in facilitating play for children with disabilities. They need to be aware of the challenges faced by each child with a disability and know how to adapt the environment and encourage the child to explore the possibilities for play. In addition, they must ensure that the child has opportunities to self-initiate play, even though adult modeling and guidance may be required before the child is able to play independently or with peers. Children without disabilities can become helpful play partners when they are knowledgeable about the nature of their friends’ disabilities and how to interact with them. With the advent of inclusion or integrated classrooms, children are more likely to have a child with disabilities in their classroom and accept them as play partners. However, they, too, might need adult guidance in how to include a child with disabilities in their play activities.
The environment plays an important role in accessibility to play for children with disabilities. The indoor environment needs to be modified to accommodate children with different disabilities. Especially important are modifications of space and accessible location of materials for children using wheelchairs and other mobility aids.
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