Abi at the playground 2A new report published today by a national charity, Sense states that parents of deafblind and disabled children need more support in getting better access to play opportunities for their children.

The report is released as part of Deafblind Awareness Week 2015 (22 – 28 June) and Sense is urging people to be more aware of ways to include deafblind children into play activities.

Sense estimates there are at least 21,000 children in the UK who have experienced some level of sight and hearing difficulties. Within this group, there are at least 4,000 children identified as having significant hearing and visual impairments[1]. These children often require specialist support and approaches to teaching, learning and developing independence.

Sensory play sessions can help parents and children develop a shared language.  As part of its Play campaign, Sense offers a range of practical recommendations on improving play that can easily be implemented by families and professionals.

Richard Kramer, Sense Deputy Chief Executive said: “Playing in childhood helps us to become who we are as adults and it is so important that children who are deafblind or have complex disabilities are not held back in their development by a lack of play opportunities. The tips on how to adapt play activities to suit children with multiple and complex disabilities, show that sometimes even small adjustments can bring great results.

Abi playing“Sense was set up as a charity by a group of families fighting for a better life for their deafblind children and our Play campaign is a continuation of that work. Through play, children learn how to express emotion, engage with others and build a sense of belonging, while at the same time becoming more independent. We urge local authorities to make early intervention through play a funding priority.”

Sense top ten tips on how to better incorporate sensory play into playroom activities:

  • Don’t rush. Some children can only use one sense at a time initially, so do not do too much too quickly – try only one or a few things at a time. Children need time to respond and do things for themselves. Let the child feel for things without pushing them – you can use hand under hand guidance to help
  • Sing body songs, where the kids can roll around and there are constant sequences of movement as they help create better self-awareness.
  • Develop turn-taking games. These can include action rhymes, cradling, rocking and bouncing games. They provide opportunities for stimulating the use of vision, use of hearing, and toleration of touch.
  • Use a child’s personal toys to interact with them to make them feel safe and more confident, so that they’re more likely to play back and communicate.
  • Ditch the plastic toys – these feel the same – but pebbles, pine cones, bark and other natural fibres are a great way to increase exploration of new and different textures.
  • Choose toys that suit your child’s needs. Everyday objects may make better toys, but always check for safety. For example:
  • o   Different types of brushes
  • o   Textured fabrics
  • o   Torches or Christmas lights, preferably with different colours
  • Make the best use of technology – ipads have many sensory apps that are suitable for deafblind children and can stimulate their remaining senses through bright lights, vibrations and music. They’re also good for improving hand to eye coordination.
  • Use household items as sensory toys (under constant parental supervision) for example:
    • Place beads or dried pasta into metal colander to make sounds.
    • Put beads on a metal tray to create a sound a bit like an ocean drum
    • Rice in a balloon makes a nice rattle, great for developing early listening skills.
  • Messy play is another good way of encouraging tactile communication. You can use dry objects such as dry pasta, shredded paper, porridge oats or cotton wool – even baked beans or jelly!
  • Create a ‘sensory environment’ for the child. These can range from specialist rooms that may be found in schools or day services, to an environment that has been set up for the child at home. For example, a pop-up camping tent could be used to create an indoor sensory ‘room’ that encourages a child to learn, to look and to explore.