“Volunteering with Children with Special Needs”
Adaptive Recreation & Play
Jonathan Greenwood – Pediatric Physical Therapist
Director of Pediatrics at Northeast Rehabilitation Health Network
What are Special Needs?
Special Needs are conditions or illnesses that require a degree of assistance from another individual / caregiver.
Possible Limitations for Children with Special Needs (May include some or all challenges below):
- Physical Disabilities
- Physical Disabilities may include any conditions that make it difficult for an individual to move / walk
- Children may often require to have someone with them to help with motion, lifting and handling, personal hygiene and other day to day tasks that they simply cannot perform on their own.
- The child may rely on walkers, wheelchairs or braces to move
- Limitations in the child’s ability to follow directions
- The child may have cognitive impairments / hearing issues / behavior issues / attention issues
- The child may not use their voice for speaking or might use other ways to communicate
- Children in need of medical care often need someone to give the child medication, change bandages, and perhaps assistance with day to day tasks that their medical condition prevents them from doing on their own
- The child might have medical needs that interfere with their ability to play sports
- The child may be enrolled in a program in schools which helps that child learn in different ways
- Limitations in their ability to Communicate
- Children in need of medical care
- Special Educational Needs in School
What is Adaptive Recreation?
- Adaptive Recreation is a concept where children with limitations are able to participation in sports or recreational programs with modifications.
- Activity Modifications are changes made to a game or activity that allow all players to have an equal or more equal chance of doing well.
- Assistive Devices are any equipment used to level the playing field in a mixed-ability competition, or to allow someone the opportunity to participate that could not do so without its benefit.
Tips for Volunteering with Children in Challenger Baseball…
- Challenger Baseball is an incredible organization that allows Children who are not able to participate in a baseball league with typically developing peers due to some of the above mentioned limitations to participate in PLAY… participate in SOCIAL INTERACTIONS… make new FRIENDS… and ultimately have FUN…
- Keep the GAME and ACTIVITIES before and after the game SAFE for every child…
- Volunteers need to keep a calm and composed demeanor at all times…
- Encourage participation… Ease Fears… Cheer for Everyone… This is GOOD SPORTSMANSHIP.
- Learn what the child CAN DO… and help out where needed to support SUCCESS…
- Ask the Families (and families help out the volunteers) what the child needs for supports…
- Get to know the Child & Family you are helping out with
- Your life will be enriched by the relationships you build
- You will learn as much from this child and family as they learn from you
- YOU are a connection for this child & family to the FUN of ADAPTIVE RECREATION
- Ask the Family what type of help their child needs
- Speak with the child as a friend… Get down at eye level to speak with them… Show your excitement in your words, tone and actions…
- How can I help the child I am volunteering with?
Understanding Types of Play & How it Helps Children
Motor/Physical Play (Running, Jumping, Dancing, etc)
Motor play provides opportunities for children to develop individual gross and fine muscle strength. It allows for overall integration of muscles, nerves, and brain functions. Recent research demonstrates the critical link between stimulating activity and brain development. Young children must have ample opportunities to develop physically, and motor play activities allow for this in young children.
A variety of opportunities for children to engage in social play are the best mechanisms for progressing through the different social stages. By interacting with others in play settings, children learn social rules such as, give and take, reciprocity, cooperation, and sharing. Through a range of interactions with children at different social stages, children also learn to use moral reasoning to develop a mature sense of values. To be prepared to function effectively in the adult world, children need to participate in lots of social situations. Social play also teaches the child about themselves as an individual
Games With Rules
Developmentally, most children progress from an egocentric view of the world (the world revolves around the child) to an understanding of the importance of social contracts and rules. Part of this development occurs as they learn that games like Follow the Leader, Red Rover, Simon Says, baseball and soccer. Games such as these cannot function without everyone adhering to the same set of rules. The "games with rules" concept teaches children a critically important concept - the game of life has rules (laws) that we all must follow to function productively.