All children have a right to play. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (article 31) states: 'Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.'
Play is difficult to define, but includes the following characteristics. It is:
- Not reliant on materials, activities or contexts;
- Internally motivated;
- Focused on the process rather than an end product;
- Flexible and spontaneous;
- Free from the constraints of reality;
During play, the child is in control, and actively engaged in the play.
(Luckett et al, 2007)
One of the most depressing statements to my ears, is the assertion
that a child is too disabled to play. Here the focus is on the child's inability to
manipulate toys when alone or in the company of other children. However this incapacity
is just as true of babies and yet we would not dream of saying they can't play. Indeed
adults make strenuous efforts to get babies playing and their reward at first is simple
– the baby's smile.
... a comprehensive understanding of play should include detailed
information about how play typically develops in young children and eventually results
in these more advanced levels of play...
Despite the current emphasis on promoting the systematic, evidence based use-of-play... efforts remain problematic because of the continued use of global descriptions of play, inattention to identifying developmental progress, and confounding interventions in play per se with the use of play as an activity base with other domains.
Lifter et al, 2011
...the most effective behavioural interventions have been those
which have built on children's existing abilities or have relied on the motivating
nature of activities themselves rather than on external rewards.
Luckett et al, 2007
The Social Play Record offers systematic assessment and targeted
intervention for children who experience difficulty with social interaction. It supports
development and social inclusion by enhancing the understanding, knowledge and skills
of families, children, practitioners and peers. The SPR
is a flexible tool. It spans development from early infancy to adolescence, providing
an ongoing record of social play. It can be introduced at any age or stage within
this developmental range. It is applicable for children of all abilities in any educational
or social setting.
For a list of play assessments read Lifter et al (2011).
Lifter and Bloom's (1989; Lifter, 2000) Developmental Play Assessment focuses on cognitive aspects of play, and identifies mastered, emerging and unlearned skills. Assessment is based on periodic 30-minute video play samples and a developmental sequence of categories.
Analysis has precise criteria, but broadly includes:
- Determining the frequency of different play activities;
- Allocating the activities into developmental categories of play, which gives the frequency and variety of activities within the category:
- Categories mastered: reasonable frequency and variety of examples.
- Categories associated with next developmental stage which are emerging: occur infrequently.
- Categories as yet unlearned: not represented in
Analyse the literature on play and children with SLD/PMLD/CLDD, including approaches such as Intensive interaction, Integrated play groups, Floor time model, etc.
Write a position paper for your school on play including principles, key approaches
Barton, E.E. (2010) Development of a taxonomy of pretend play for children with disabilities, Infants and Young Children, 23 (4), 247–261.
Lifter, K. (2000) Linking assessment to intervention for children with developmental disabilities or at-risk for developmental delay: The developmental play assessment (DPA) instrument. In: K. Gitlin-Weiner, A. Sandgrund and C. Schafer (eds) Play Diagnosis and Assessment (2nd edn). New York: John Wiley.
Lifter, K. and Bloom, L. (1989) Object play and the emergence of language, Infant Behavior and Development, 12, 395-423.
Lifter, K., Foster-Sanda, S., Arzamarski, C., Briesch, J. and McClure, E. (2011) Overview of play: its uses and importance in early intervention/early childhood special education, Infants & Young Children, 24 (3), 225–245.
Luckett, T., Bundy, A. and Roberts, J. (2007) Do behavioural approaches teach children with autism to play or are they pretending?, Autism, 11 (4), 365-388.
McConkey, R. (2006) Realising the potential of play for ALL children, PMLD-Link, 18 (3), 8-10.
Santer, J., Griffiths, C. and Goodall, D. (2007) Free Play in Early Childhood: A literature review. National Children's Bureau.
White, C. (2006) The Social Play Record. London: Jessica Kingsley.