A recent research article in the Journal of Early Intervention studied 72 children in an inclusive preschool setting. The children were asked to respond to various hypothetical situations that occur during preschool. The results indicated that the preschool children were significantly more likely to include children with physical disabilities in activities that required few motor skills. The children's decisions were also influenced by prompts of fairness and equity when making decisions.
Pediatric therapists can assist in encouraging peer interaction in inclusive settings. Here are several ideas.
1. Adapt tools: During any activity, some tools, parts or pieces of a game may need adaptations to decrease the amount of motor skills necessary to use the tool. Keep a few pieces of the games adapted at all times that way the children can freely pick and choose during free play. Add scarves, velcro mitts, easy to hold balls, etc. in ball area so choices are available at all times.
2. Modify rules: Change the rules of games that require extensive motor skills. For example, instead of kick ball have the children roll the balls down a ramp. Have the children rename the games so they can choose the games with the modified rules without confusion.
3. Start off easy: If you want to have the child practice motor skills with peers, perhaps start off a group without any motor skills involved at first to engage the children. For example, perform a short puppet show on what the activity will be and then have the children participate in the actual activity.
What ideas to you use to encourage all children to play together?
Reference: Karen E. Diamond, Soo-Young Hong. Young Children’s Decisions to Include Peers With Physical Disabilities in Play Journal of Early Intervention June 2010 vol. 32 no. 3 163-177