Part II: New Positions
When planning activities for children with disabilities, we have to be creative to ensure that fun activities remain accessible to them. This could mean trying different positions for different activities. Let’s get into it!
For children who don’t yet have the core strength to sit up independently, there are many different Assistive Technology (AT) hacks you can try- starting with the Boppy Pillow® which can be used to support children’s lower back area and help them sit more upright for floor-based activities. Another option for little children is to use a bouncing seat which also provides support to the child’s back and allows the child to sit in a semi-upright position for activities that require them to be seated in this way. Super inexpensive/homemade options to support the lower back and provide some elevation for forward-facing floor activities are couch cushions, rolled towels, and pillows. All of which can be placed under the child’s lower back for the child to lean against. With each of these options, you’ll want to ensure that the object being used to support semi-upright seating positions is firm enough to support the child’s weight and provide the appropriate support for the child without moving away from the desired activity too much.
If your child needs more front support, you may find that highchairs with lock-on trays provide greater stability for your child to engage in activities in an upright position. Use of a highchair with a lock-on tray could also allow children greater flexibility to use their hands and arms during play time. As an alternative to the highchair with a lock-on tray, the Boppy Pillow® can also be used to provide front support for floor activities.
If the opportunity is presented, take full advantage of activities that don’t necessarily require you or your child to sit in an upright position and instead present the convenience of playing while laying down on your belly. Activities that support this type of positioning include rolling cars back and forth on the floor, coloring, and reading.
One final consideration for accessibility during playtime is to alter the arrangement of activities so that they are more accommodating for children with disabilities. For tabletop activities, try adjusting the height of the table or using a different surface so that the child can comfortably reach and see the surface of the area they are using for play time. It could also be a good idea to change horizontal activities into more vertical activities if vertical surfaces are more accessible for your child. Think about using a felt board with fun characters and pictures to tell a story.
We want to keep children with disabilities engaged during playtime so that they have the same opportunities to engage in vital childhood development as their peers. Sometimes this means being creative by changing the child’s position or the arrangement of the activity.
TLDR: Support children with disabilities during playtime by providing things that will help them sit up to engage in the activity such as a Boppy Pillow®, rolled towels, or couch cushions. You can also help children sit up to engage in play activities by using a highchair with a locking tray. Finally, try changing the position of the activity so that it supports the child’s engagement. Instead of reading a book sitting up, try reading the book while lying down on your belly. Playtime should be accessible to all children regardless of ability.