Benefits Of Play For Children with Special Needs
Play is crucial to every child’s development. It provides an opportunity to explore, experiment, and learn new skills. For children with special needs, however, it is even more important and beneficial. A child with cerebral palsy might use pretend play to enhance motor skills and coordination, while a child with Down Syndrome might use group play to develop language skills. Here are three ways play helps in your special needs child’s development.
1. Supports physical development
Many children with special needs have physical developmental delays. They may not reach milestones like sitting up, crawling, or walking as early as other children their age. Fortunately, physical development is just one of the many development areas supported through play.
Stacking blocks or threading beads helps children to develop fine motor skills such as grasping and hand-eye coordination, while climbing and running help them to develop their gross motor skills. Through play, children learn how to control their bodies and develop the coordination and strength they need to participate in various physical activities.
2. Promotes cognitive development
Cognitive development includes learning to think, reason, and remember. As children engage in play, they are constantly learning and growing. Their brains develop new pathways and connections, leading to improved cognitive functioning.
For example, engaging in an activity of pretend play after learning about ‘Community Helpers’ in our Early Intervention Programme allows children with special needs to experiment with different roles and explore different aspects of the world. They would be able to better internalise what they had been taught previously as they gain new insight of the roles through play. As they try out new things, they learn how to think flexibly and solve problems. Meanwhile, construction play during facilitated Functional Play time helps children develop spatial awareness and understand how things work together. As they build towers and houses out of blocks, they can learn how to visualise objects in three dimensions and plan ahead.
3. Encourages social development
Social development involves learning how to interact with others. Children can learn how to cooperate in team activities, negotiate rules while playing games, and take turns in conversation while engaging in pretend play. Interacting with others can also help them to develop a better understanding of social rules and expectations, which is what many special needs children struggle with.
Functional and Facilitated Play provides children with special needs opportunities to practise social skills such as communication, sharing, and taking turns. They can discover new ways to interact with the world and people around them and, under the right supervision and facilitation, learn to express themselves in a safe and fun environment.
Besides collaborating with other children, play is an excellent way for children with special needs to bond with their parents and caregivers. Caregivers can learn about their children's interests, preferences, and abilities, while the children can learn to trust and rely on them.
Work With MindChamps Allied Care For A Holistic Early Intervention Approach
All parents and caregivers want their children to reach their fullest potential. But that doesn’t solely involve academic skills like learning the alphabet or practising their penmanship. By encouraging our children to play, we can help them to develop physically, emotionally, and mentally.
At MindChamps Allied Care, we are an early intervention school in Singapore that offers holistic programmes for children with special needs. They include Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, Educational Therapy, Child Psychology, Early Intervention Programme (EIP) which are group classes that are conducted by a team of trained therapists and Special Needs Educators. To prepare both parties, the parent and child will first have an Initial Assessment before a therapy or education plan is worked out.
Book a centre visit at a MindChamps Allied Care early intervention school near you to find out more about our programmes today!