Good quality playtime is essential for children’s overall development. However, this can be a sensory overload to a child with learning disabilities. With over 1,300,000 children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) throughout the UK, many schools do not have the appropriate outdoor play equipment to support their learning and development entirely.
Children with learning disabilities can struggle with social interaction, communication and imagination. This can drastically affect their ability to form meaningful friendships and they are likely to struggle to engage in play with their peers.
It is important for children with learning disabilities to enjoy play within an environment in which they feel safe and supported. Access to activities and toys that stimulate the use of skills, such as concentration, matching, sorting, identifying different sizes and shapes are key.
Whatever these children are presented with, the outcome needs to be motivating and rewarding to encourage effective interaction and achieve the desired learning outcomes.
Having access to a wide range of toys and activities can help to practice skills learnt in new and fun ways and the repetition of activities should be encouraged.
Sensory play is a type of play that stimulates the seven senses including smell, touch, sight, taste, sound and the two lesser-known senses, vestibular or balance and proprioceptive or relation of individual body parts to the rest of the body.
Sensory play encourages exploration and investigation, helping to create stronger connections and relationships between senses within the brain. Children with a special need require extra help to process and interpret the world around them and so the importance of sensory play is magnified.
Benefits Of Sensory Activities For individuals With Autism And Other Disabilities
Research, funded by Autism Speaks, determined that children who engaged in sensory play every day for ten weeks were less likely to need assistance in social situations and self-care than those who didn’t engage.
Engaging in sensory play in a positive environment encourages interaction between children and the building of new relationships. It also encourages them to learn how to share, investigate and work together effectively to problem solve with their peers.
Play can also promote children to adapt to new situations and differentiate between scenarios, adjusting their behaviour to suit.
Sensory activities can promote children to express their feelings and share new ideas amongst their friends. Trying to describe a feeling or an experience helps with the development of a child’s understanding words and their meaning.
The more a child is open, honest and encouraged to share their feelings, the more likely they will voice their feelings and opinions. Using prompts and asking open-ended questions around their experience will encourage this behaviour. This can also encourage them to further develop and enrich their vocabulary.
Motor Skills And Coordination
Sensory play can incorporate a lot of physical activity and it is normal for a child with autism to struggle with their movement. This will only get worse over time with a lack of physical activity and can be detrimental to the development of a child’s motor skills.
Physical play encourages the development of:
- Fine motor skills, such as the movement of the wrists, hands, fingers, feet and toes through activities, such as picking up objects and writing.
- Gross motor skills, such as the coordination of the arms, legs and other large body parts through activities, such as running, jumping, sliding, swimming, catching, throwing and kicking.
Problem Solving Skills
Children can develop their decision-making and problem-solving skills during play when experimenting with different objects, finding solutions to solve obstacles and working as a team with their peers. This can also help them overcome any reservations surrounding social interaction.
Sensory activities often involve using multiple senses at the same time. The more senses a child uses during an activity, the more likely they are able to remember what happened, strengthening their cognitive skills. Certain smells, tastes, sounds and sights can be linked with memory and improve the overall recall of information.
Introducing children to sensory play from a young age can help build cognitive pathways in their brain, strengthening the development of feelings and behaviours, such as rationality and empathy. As a teacher, you should be aware of the limitations of the children you’re working with as overstimulation in certain children can lead to seizures and fits.
Certain activities can have a therapeutic element to them, helping to calm down feelings of frustration and confusion when a child becomes overwhelmed or unfocused. The incorporation of these activities can help with the recognition of these feelings and gives a child the time to refocus and start again.
The development of self-control is also paramount as children learn how to follow instructions and respect the rules and boundaries during sensory play.
How Can Red Monkey Play Help You?
We understand that making your playground equipment as inclusive as possible is becoming more and more important and can be a daunting task. If you’re looking to implement disability-friendly play equipment within your school, then our team at Red Monkey Play will be more than happy to help you!
Please don’t hesitate to contact us. You can either email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our Leicester office on 0116 366 9922 or our London office on 020 38445 525 to book a free consultation.