Games for Children With Learning Difficulties
As a youth group leader, you may find it a challenge to provide appropriate games for children with learning difficulties. The key is to find games that will encourage the children – and be a lot of fun – without becoming too frustrating for them.
The challenge can be compounded by the fact that each child is different with different abilities and skills. Also, each child may not be lagging behind in all areas, which can make it difficult to find games that are suitable to them overall.
Varied SpectrumAnother difficulty you may encounter as a youth group leader working with a child, or children, with learning difficulties, is how varied the spectrum of disability can be. Some children may have problems processing speech; others may seem very bright but have difficulties with letters and numbers.
Other children in the youth group may have problems with their motor coordination skills, making it difficult for them to play simple physical games. Still others might have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), or short attention spans, meaning they need quiet, firm discipline coupled with somewhat less stimulation for them to succeed best.
Talking to the children’s parents beforehand can be a good idea, to ascertain the level of their learning difficulties. Also, talk to the children themselves to learn what their own personal likes and dislikes are: no child enjoys playing games they find boring, uninteresting or too challenging for them!
Helping Simple Motor SkillsLots of fun games are out there which introduce and encourage the acquisition of basic motor skills. Games that involve listening to music and finding the rhythm can be ideal for many children, although some learning disabled children might find identifying a tempo and a beat difficult. Again, follow the child's lead.
Here are some games which many children with learning difficulties can participate in, which can help develop gross motor skills:
- Skipping rope
- Bouncing balls
- Jumping games
- Playing catch
Make sure to keep things as light as possible, and don't pressure the child if he or she becomes unduly frustrated. Children with dyspraxia, a neurological impairment that affects movement, for example, might find simple, everyday activities such as the ones listed above difficult if not impossible, as well as participation in team sports.
Keep in mind that simple forms of dance or exercise, including basic yoga poses and gentle, fun exercise accompanied by lots of praise, may be better than asking children to perform tasks which they cannot do.
Board GamesBoard games can be great fun for kids with learning difficulties. Not only do they reinforce skills such as counting, reading and identifying colours and shapes, they also can help improve social skills as well.
The age and developmental level of the children in your youth group will, of course, dictate what types of board games are most suitable.
Improving Reading, Writing and Maths Skills
Dyslexia, which impairs reading, is the most common learning difficulty, while dyscalculia, known as the “math learning disability”, is common as well. Board games that can teach reading, writing and maths skills could include:
- Scrabble or Junior Scrabble
- Trivial Pursuit
Working on Social SkillsA child with a learning difficulty will have more than their academics affected. An autistic child or one with AD/HD may lack the simple interpersonal skills required to interact competently with others, and may also suffer low self-esteem as a result.
Sharing, following rules and taking turns can be difficult to teach on a one-to-one basis. That’s why board games, which depend on the cooperation of every player for success and are designed to be both relaxing and fun, can be such great teaching tools.
There are many board games that teach social skills such as negotiation and cooperation. When you play them, make sure you shower the child with praise and go at their pace, giving plenty of positive enforcement.
Children with learning difficulties may do things a bit differently than their peers, but they can succeed in school and go on to succeed in other areas of their lives as well. Helping them to develop their own skills and learn at their own pace, with positive encouragement along the way, can make all the difference.