Young children spend most of their free time playing. In their free time they play with the people and objects around them. Play is an important part of every child's development. It is a vehicle through which children explore and learn about their environment. It organizes learning in children in the form of new words, motor skills, social ideas, and feelings under their conscious control.
Children with special needs also tend to play, but in a more repetitive, simple and unimaginative ways. They prefer to play alone rather than with peers. Hence they do not get opportunities to learn language and social skills as they when they are playing with parents, grandparents, other siblings and friends.
It is very important to provide opportunities to children to increase variety, flexibility, spontaneity and creativity using play, as these opportunities help the children to develop play skills as the building blocks of learning.
Social Skills are the behaviors which, within a given situation, predict social outcomes. Social rules, explicit and implied, are everywhere. It is easiest, however to notice them when they are missing. When someone stand too close, when someone talk too loudly, or when someone does not initiate even greeting.
Social skill is an area of need for most children with special needs. Even some of the high functioning children with special needs stumble when it comes to socializing with his/her peers. They do not know how to initiate an interaction, to play or to maintain a relationship
However, there are not many programs available to help them develop these skills. Thus, The Playstreet Program is offered as a Play and Social Skills Development Program. It is designed with the objective of developing the intention of play and using play to develop social skills. This program incorporates the services of a special educator, a speech therapist, and an occupational therapist in order to facilitate the understanding of social rules and development of advanced language and motor skills required to socialize with peers and adults in the child's environment.
The Playstreet program targets to:
- Intentionally interact and communicate for more reasons, with more success, and with more pleasure.
- Communicate using words, gestures, eye-gaze, facial expressions and body language.
- Learn to manage attention, managing emotions, initiation and making choices.
- Learn various rules, age appropriate social structure and cooperation.
- Imitate what others do including actions, words, melody of voice, and personal style.
- Enjoy playing and interacting with others for longer periods of time.
- Learn to play and use their free time meaningfully.
The Playstreet Program develops the progression of play skills as follows:
- Explores toys in environment, build interest in toys, and develop cause and effect.
- Task completion
- Learn to play with the toy as designed. Learn multiple responses with toys related to a theme, and finds new ways of playing
- Plays interactively with other children
- Engages in make-believe play
- Independent indoor leisure activities
- Interactive leisure activities
- Outdoor games and activities
The Program addresses the social skills as skill scaffolding, building a progression of skills as
Joint Attention - Acknowledging and attending to others; maintain the eye-contact.
Greetings - Acknowledging and greeting others, managing your body and personal.
Social Play - Interacting with others, in appropriate social contexts, recognising common interests, engaging in play.
Self-Awareness - Regulating self, delaying reinforcement and self-monitoring appropriately.
Conversation - Acknowledging and responding to another person's language/ conversation thoughtfully, and initiating and sustaining conversations.
Perspective Taking - Labelling and interpreting personal emotions and other's emotions; showing compassion to another and adapting one's behaviours appropriately.
Critical Thinking - Problem solving, planning and generating options for determining what comes next.
Advanced Language - Understanding and responding to advanced language; social pragmatics, including interpreting social clues and inferences.
Friendships - Making and sustaining friendships.
Community Skills - Independence in the community and daily life.