The Highland Council is currently undertaking a Review of Additional Support Needs, with a focus on school aged children and young people. Within the curriculum, aspects of play are obviously a feature within the early years, but the beneficial effects of play and having fun, for all of us is widely known. This is the case for children/young people and adults alike.
As the Principal Officer for Additional Support for Learning within Highland Council, I am aware of the importance of play at all levels, in supporting the physical, emotional, social and cognitive development of all children and young people. For those children with additional support needs, this becomes even more important as it can give them a sense of freedom from the usual limits and constraints in their lives and the opportunity for self discovery and exploration. Play can also provide the context or therapeutic interventions for those children who have experienced trauma and distress in their lives and simply BE therapeutic for all children and young people, at all stages of their growth and development.
For those children who feel less positive about themselves or those who have experienced challenge in formal learning situations, learning through play is a great way to rebuild confidence and help them gain skills and competences that can be used in a more formal way within the classroom.
In the outdoors, children and young people can learn about themselves and others, learn how to risk assess situations within their own boundaries and test out social interactions in a less pressured environment.
For children and young people with significant needs of course, there has to be thought given to the play environment so that independence can be maximised. For some, play may need to be structured and well supported to keep them safe and to ensure that social interactions are positive and encouraging, and being able to do this in a way that is both supportive and yet unobtrusive is a skill in itself.
When we get this right however, play, can be a great leveller and equaliser of social standing and peer group status. When children play, freely and with imagination, all are equal. Physical disabilities can cease to be limiting for a while, and the least able can become the best super hero. Everything is possible through play and imagination and all children are equal for a time, an aspect that is so important for children, but especially those with ASN.
Bernadette Cairns, Principal Officer, Additional Support for Learning and Early Years