Play is much more than just fun for developing children. It is a vital ingredient in developing a healthy young adult. Engaging in play, sports and movement-based physical activities builds motor skills and enhances a child’s creativity, self-confidence and social skills.
The benefits of playful physical activity on cardio-respiratory fitness, strength and endurance hold true for all children including those with special needs. Through these activities, children learn to become self-reliant and competent to face day to day challenges.
In this scenario, children with special needs are often severely disadvantaged in benefiting from play. They face 3 primary challenges:
Very few opportunities for,
- playing in socially inclusive groups
- playing appropriate games suitable for their developmental challenges
- There is an acute paucity of a safe and supportive environment where parents of children with special needs can let the child offer the freedom to enjoy a play or outdoor activities.
- Children with special needs require additional inputs to derive maximum benefit from play activity.
It is proven that participation in physical activities greatly enhance the benefits of therapeutic interventions such as occupational, speech and physical therapy that children with special needs require to mitigate their developmental challenges. Professionally planned and supervised play activity is indeed the secret input for accelerated benefit accrual.
In India, children with special needs face many hurdles to engage in gainful play. Adequately trained, empathetic teachers, trainers and coaches are one of them. Coaches and trainers seldom have adequate knowledge and training to,
- recognize every special child’s strengths
- identify their developmental challenges
- help the children reach their maximum potential
- create a socially inclusive environment
Therefore, devising a training program to train a cadre of professionals who, through play, can maximize the potential of children with special needs is the key.