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Children's Health

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Playtime for Children With Physical Disabilities

Be in the Moment

When parents play with their children, they tend to think they should be working toward a goal or something measurable. But Pratola persuades parents to think of play differently. Instead of focusing on a goal, simply give your child an opportunity for play. Follow your child’s lead for what they want to play, which is basically what they want to learn. And just enjoy the time together, she says.

Enlist the Help of Your Child's Therapists

Consult with your child's physical, occupational, or speech therapist, or other experts on her team. And get input on what kinds of playing might be appropriate for your child.

Ask your child’s therapist which toy catalogues they would suggest and adapted toys they like and why. With a little research you may also discover that your community has a toy-lending library in operation.

Physical challenges span a broad variety of difficulties, and you should be sure to take your child’s own likes, dislikes, and preferences into account as well.

Play Tips: Newborn to Age 1

From birth to 1 year of age, it's crucial to let your child spend a healthy amount time out of their crib, says Doschadis.

Have rattles, mirrors, lights, and other stimulating toys on hand. "With physical disabilities, your child may need assistant in movement," she says. "He may need help turning over."

Focus on sensory play, says Kat Davitt, a certified child life specialist at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas. Consider tactile blankets, which are made from a variety of materials, some that may crunch, others that may pop, and so on.

Play peek-a-boo for visual stimulation, or play with a rattle to include identifiable sounds in your child’s playtime.

Play Tips: Ages 1 to 3

Doschadis says that at age 1, play can begin taking place in different environments, such as in the water, in the sand, or as close as on the front lawn.

Offer your physically challenged child every opportunity that would be presented to a typically developing child at the same age, she says. You can begin incorporating large, soft balls in your child’s playtime. And keep in mind that adaptation for most materials and toys is usually possible to suit your child’s individual needs.

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