2000 Conference Proceedings

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Play And Learn!

Mary Sagstetter, M.A.Ed.
AbleNet Inc.
1081 Tenth Avenue S.E.
Mpls, MN 55414-1312

Welcome to Play and Learn! What started as a thesis project on motor development has evolved into a complete teaching program with a full year of expansive themes and activities. Based on the belief that all children learn through movement and meaningful play, this curriculum has been created to integrate motor skill development with the developmental areas of communication, socialization, and cognitive skill development. These developmental areas are threads woven together throughout the curriculum. The result is a colorful fun-filled fabric of possibilities for all early childhood students, whether or not they have a disability.

The curriculum is based on current research, which supports the Play and Learn curriculum emphasis of a holistic model in which the child, environment, and functional tasks are integrated, not isolated. The curriculum is organized into eleven play areas: Cooperative Project, Art in Process, Obstacle Course, Sensory Activities, Swing Activities, Mat Activities, Manipulatives, Gym Activities, Pre-Writing, Cooperative Sensorimotor Activities and Games. These areas are arranged to promote independence and active involvement. The activities are designed to motivate children to try new things they might avoid in free play. Consistent structure with defined spaces and clear expectations in each area gives students opportunities to develop a wide range of new skills and abilities. As a result, these areas provide a framework for meeting a wide range of IEP (Individual Educational Plan) goals and objectives.

A transdisciplinary model of service delivery is incorporated into the curriculum as the most effective way to teach young children. It empowers the staff to become integral members of a team by providing specifics on ways to become facilitators and coaches for more peer-to-peer interaction. When using the curriculum, all the staff members work with the child on all the goals.

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Play and Learn is a twelve-month curriculum addressing everything the staff needs to incorporate assistive technology such as switches and voice output communication aids into 264 fun, skill-building activities. The curriculum contains an activity plan for set up and how to facilitate these activities for different settings and differing ability levels. It also utilizes familiar and expansive themes such as families, animals and nature to link gross and fine motor skill development with art, pre-writing, games, gym, sensory and cooperative projects.

Each activity is presented with a simple technology option called "Try Another Way." This option allows staff to integrate the use of assistive technology that is highly motivating and useful for many children, especially those who are nonverbal, have severe cognitive and physical disabilities, or have autism spectrum disorder. Assistive technology dramatically increases a child's ability to learn and playfully interact with others. It is one possible means for children with disabilities to exert control over their environment (Swinth, et al.,1993). Assistive technology opens doors and provides new opportunities for children with disabilities to play side by side with their peers.

In the Play and Learn curriculum there is additional information that makes the curriculum unique. As an example, communication symbols which are paired with each activity and placed on every assistive technology switch and communication device are discussed. Communication symbols are an important component for children with a wide range of abilities. The use of symbols serves as a primary vehicle for language learning and a way to learn about and depict their world (Buekelman & Mirenda, 1998). Thus, symbols help children comprehend language and give important structure and meaning to their environment.

Another example of additional information is that Play and Learn curriculum is organized by monthly themes which correlate with high quality children's literature. Books that reflect cultural diversity and varying ability levels have been woven into a book list for each month. This way, inclusion can be an integral part of story times. The books also provide elements of meaningful vocabulary, simple story text with lots of repetition and clear illustrations that encourage active involvement in early literacy activities.

In this session Play and Learn will be introduced to the participants. Many activities will be shared, including those using simple technology. The presenter will share stories of early childhood students using this curriculum via a slide presentation. There will be opportunities for participants to engage in some of the curriculum activity ideas. Participants will gain knowledge of activities that integrate motor skill development with the developmental areas of communication, socialization and cognitive skill development. Participants will become acquainted with the how to "Try Another Way" to include simple assistive technology for all early childhood students, including those with the most significant disabilities. Time will be allowed for questions.

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Buekleman, David R. and Mirenda, Pat. (1998). Augmentative and Alternative

Communication. Baltimore, MD: Paul Brooks.

Swinth,Yvonne, Anson, Denis and Deitz, Jean. (1993). Single-Switch Computer Access

for Infants and Toddlers. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy. Volume 47-Number 11.

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