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Making a Difference in the Lives of Children with Special Needs

Toy DHA 2u Special Needs Children Wings Melaka

I believe it was Friedrich Froebel who said “Play is a child’s work’. To him, play provides the means to develop a child intellectually, socially, emotionally and physically. In fact “PLAY” is so important that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognises it as a child’s right: “The child has the right to leisure, play and participation in cultuSupport Malaysia Kids Programral and artistic activities”. (Article 31, UNCRC)

The idea of children learning by playing may seem outrageous to some parents and educational institutions, that firmly believe that learning is all about getting good grades in school. But the focus of learning goes beyond grades, and children can be taught some of the most complex concepts simply by playing certain games and engaging in some activities. For example, young children can be taught mathematics on the Abacus even before they are taught it in the classroom. The Abacus lays a strong foundation on the basics of mathematics like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division – all these on a colourful tool, with the children learning how these concepts work by manually moving the beads. This makes it a playful activity that enhances learning through play. Then there are available today many board games that reflect the concept of learning while playing. Monopoly, for instance, teaches children how to use money wisely at a young age. It teaches them how to carry out transactions and how to make decisions. It is highly engaging and full of fun, and yet teaches concepts that a formal classroom lesson may not teach. A game such as Scrabble does more than increase a child’s vocabulary. It challenges the child to strategize using the point system to come up with high scoring words, placing alphabets appropriately in strategic positions. These are educational toys and games that teach children concepts that parents and the formal classroom are sometimes unable to do. With our children becoming more tech-savvy nowdays, many more computer and video games have been designed to teach children basic concepts such as strategy, team work, and creative thinking. These games also enhance focus and concentration. Games that increase word power and improve memory, and games that teach complex scientific concepts in a simple manner, are all readily available to help children enhance their learning.

It is no different in the field of disability and special educational needs. Engaging the special needs child through play is often the most effective way to learn. Specially designed educational toys and educational software help to enhance the child’s learning. Going back to Friedrich Froebel, it is interesting to know that he designed playthings to be given to children - balls, blocks, tiles, rings and sticks encourage creative play. Thus, for Froebel, a ball provides everything needed for the expression of the child's life and activity from the earliest beginning and through the later course of development. Therefore a ball is given into the child's little hand very early in life. At first the child grasps it in order to understand its roundness. This clasping soon strengthens the muscles of the child's fingers, hand, and arm. It develops the child’s hand and fingers, first for voluntary handling of the ball, and later for correct handling of other things. This may all sound so basic but it is especially meaningful for many of us working with children with special needs.

Article submitted by :

Dr Lim Boon Hock
Executive Director, Wings Melaka

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