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The Importance of Leisure Activities for Disabled Children

You may have heard that The Aidis Trust is running gaming days as part of the Everyone Can Game project, where disabled children are being given the opportunity to partake in accessible computer games.

Now that is an opportunity that can be valuable for reasons that most people wouldn’t ordinarily think of. We often talk about engaging disabled people in education and how that can be achieved. We also often talk about how employment can be achieved, how it can be accessed and if it’s even possible. But access to leisure and fun activities is something that’s often not given much attention. Therefore, I thought I’d talk about why leisure and play are so important for disabled children as well as disabled people at large.

When you’re a small child, you don’t necessarily understand things. Because of this, small children aren’t always that understanding of why they need to include their disabled peers, let alone how to actually do that effectively. I have some quite distinct memories of being very small playing in playgrounds and on multiple occasions other little kids coming up to me and asking either what’s wrong with your eyes or what happened to your eyes. Great way to be greeted.

Now, I’m at a stage in my life where that’s a childhood memory that I can just laugh about, because playing on my own sometimes never really bothered me. I had friends, I didn’t need to make temporary friends in every new play setting. I was a happy enough little child. But as I’ve discussed before, that’s got a great deal to do with the fact that I knew a lot of other disabled children.

But not all children have that. And so, they have to rely on trying to make friends with kids who aren’t necessarily as understanding or patient as they may need to be, because those children aren’t at an age to understand. They themselves are unlikely to understand what needs to be done to include them because they’re not necessarily at an age to understand.

Small children have such a limited view of the world that the smallest things can upset them. Therefore, feeling socially isolated can have a big impact on a child. If that’s their only experience of socialisation then they probably won’t develop friendships and it may put them off opportunities they may have in later life. If a child’s only experience of other children is that they are not very nice, then they may reach a stage where they avoid interacting with other children.

So it’s very important for disabled children to have access to play activities. Giving disabled children the opportunity to play games that they can access is important because it gives them a chance to enjoy themselves and to do the things that other children are doing. It also gives them more of a means to socialise if there are adaptations made that make fun activities accessible to them, it puts them in more of a position to engage with other children. Most standard games aren’t accessible for whatever reason, but they can be made accessible with a bit of creativity. And I’m not just talking computer games here, I’m talking any games. I remember that at primary school, the games we used to invent to play in the playground were all things that accounted for the fact that I couldn’t see. If a game didn’t work very well if you couldn’t see, for the most part we’d just change the rules so that it did. The board games I played were either tactile ones or we made them tactile, for example by sticking extra things on to mark things.

But the point is, I was a fairly social child, which was helped by my interaction with other disabled children. Not all disabled children have that opportunity. I was also a fairly creative child and again, not everyone is. Which is why it’s important for them to have opportunities to meet other disabled children. It’s also important for them to have games that they can access so that they can enjoy the same activities that other children get to do and not feel left out. So that they can have things to look forward to and enjoy that make their childhoods more pleasant, just as their non-disabled peers do.

Additionally, it can help with confidence. If a child is always feeling left out and never has access to social activities,, then they may develop the mindset that they cannot do anything. That will have a negative impact on their long-term thinking, which may mean they won’t push themselves and challenge themselves to achieve things in life. Where as if they are taught to find ways to adapt things and are given ways to engage with activities through things being adapted for them, they will hopefully grow up feeling that they can achieve things. On a long-term basis, that will hopefully make them take on more challenges and try to achieve things, to in turn contribute to society in a positive way.

Computer games specifically can have many benefits to a person’s well-being, particularly for older children and adults who are disabled. This is because it can help with stress. There are often extra barriers for disabled people. Gaming can help with this. It can be used as a way to channel frustrations. It can also be used as a way of unwinding or immersing oneself in another world to escape the stresses of the present. The same can be said about creative outlets such as artistic hobbies like drawing, writing, painting, acting, digital design and production of audio and audio-visual creations.?

What are your thoughts about the importance of gaming and leisure activities for disabled children? Please share your views in the comments below.


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