Inventors or manufacturers will sometimes say to me that their products help children with special needs. I'll mention Lekotek or AblePlay and they are almost always unfamiliar with the organization. Hence, the topic of today's blog. Deidre Omahen, Director of Programs at the National Lekotek Center agreed to tell us about their role in our industry.
Deidre: “Inventors and manufacturers are absolutely right to suspect that many toys and games they created have applications for children with special needs. The challenge is to be able to shift ones perspective and see a toy’s potential for these children.
That’s actually the role of our website www.ableplay.org to match toys to children who have physical, sensory, communicative or cognitive limitations. When viewed through a lens focused on these special needs, you can actually sort of reinvent a toy by finding all kinds of new ways a child can use and play with it. And that’s really exciting!
That’s why Lekotek launched AblePlay — to provide parents and professionals with this kind of information about mainstream toys. Here are three important concepts that form our reason for being.
One is the role play has in a child’s life. Research is universal on the benefits of play. It is the very fuel children use to explore the world, develop their minds, relate to others, solve problems, reason, acquire skills and recognize and realize their abilities.
What if a child doesn’t play? It’s sad we’ve even coined the term “play deprivation,” but it is all too real and all too devastating to the children it affects. In fact, one of the foremost thought leaders in the play movement, Dr. Stuart Brown has some strong words regarding that, “…play deprivation is a kind of emotional and multisensory starvation … When we don’t (play), something has gone very, very wrong, and nonplayers will suffer a number of effects.”
Our second important concept is that children with special needs are particularly vulnerable and therefore at higher risk of play deprivation. That’s why AblePlay researches, rates and reviews toys for parents, family and professionals working with kids with special needs.
Our third concept is the use of “prescriptive toys.” As our Lekotek founder states, “We fit toys to the learning needs of the children just as a physician prescribes a specific drug for a patient. You see for a child, play is work. It is the way children learn, so we have to give them toys they find challenging, yet not so difficult that they become discouraged.” Our AblePlay website is the source for that – matching toys to a child’s unique needs – including the need to develop, learn and thrive.
To ask if your toy has this kind of potential or for a copy of our latest research on play and children with special needs email firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Thank you, Deidre, for this information and your passion in helping children with special needs!