Making Disability No Barrier to Playtime

Apr 26, 2011
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Even though inclusive education has increased, many kids with disabilities still feel excluded during playtime and recess, leaving them on the sidelines as observers and not active participants. Researchers from the University of Leeds engineering and sociology departments are working together to make playtime fun for all kids by taking out the barrier often present when a child has a disability.

In a three-year project, Dr Raymond Holt, from the School of Mechanical Engineering, and Dr Angharad Beckett, from the School of Sociology and Social Policy, hope to discover the barriers that  stops children with and without disabilities from playing together. While the design of toys and playground equipment may make it physically challenging for children with disabilities to join in group games, there are also social and emotion aspects that motivate or stop these children from playing together.

The researchers will work with at least six friendship groups made up of two or three kids aged three or four. Each group will have at least one child with a physical impairment such as cerebral palsy or spina bifida. The children will be asked how they play together and how they would like to play together. The kids’ suggestions for toys, games and playground features will then be created to test the children’s proposed solutions.

Dr. Holt stated, “Disabled children don’t want to feel that they have to play on their own. In a previous project, we worked with groups of children with cerebral palsy to design equipment that would strengthen their muscles. The children told us that they would be much more likely to use the devices if they could do so whilst playing with their friends.”

Dr. Beckett said, “Social play is recognized as being an important part of any child’s personal and social development, yet for disabled children, the opportunities for play can be limited. This project provides the first step in a collaboration that will underpin future research into developing and supporting inclusive play – with disabled children at the heart of the research.”

Personally, from what I’ve seen, some of the exclusion comes from parents of kids without disabilities. For example, it was often best if as “school room mother” I would take charge of parties at school. Otherwise, games or activities were often chosen that only children without disabilities could play – it was also common occurrence at birthday parties, but there wasn’t much that could be done to get around that. The same thing could be said of snack time and not taking into account whatever food allergies other children might have. I’m not saying parents plan it out that way on purpose, they just don’t give it any thought at all since it doesn’t personally touch them or their children.

If you are a parent of a child with disabilities, some experts advise for you to take the lead. You are probably the best advocate your child will ever have. However you choose to treat your child, others will follow, watching your lead. Since I was a big-time tomboy while growing up, and I love the outdoors and nature, my child would hold onto my neck like a piggyback ride when I climbed trees or rocks. I wanted her to experience all the things that were important to me at her age, but tree climbing, hiking and rock climbing might not be important to other parents. It worked for us though and we had wonderful picnics in beautiful natural places. I encourage you to find out what works for you and your child!

Image Credit: Versageek

Author: Tessa

  • outdoor toys

    I live in USA. Well I am touched after reading this. It is a very nice approach. I must salute those who thought about this project and would make or recommend toys due to which disable children could also participate with normal children.. Best of luck!! :)