Play and interaction is vitally important to students of all ages at Young Epilepsy for their social and emotional development and wellbeing. It provides the foundations for learning and a means of understanding and gaining control over situations that are often unavoidable. This could be the need for a medical procedure or a life event such as bereavement that can cause confusion, anxiety and challenging behaviours if not addressed. A developmentally appropriate and visual medium such as Play enables students to gain understanding and express themselves.
We employ Play Specialists and a Play Therapist who work across all areas. Play input is available as required and students can be referred for the services outlined below by teachers, social care staff, other professionals or parents.
Developmental Leisure/Play Activities
The Play Specialists provide advice and support on play and activities that are relevant for the student’s developmental progress in order to support their education. The Play Specialist may provide individual or group sessions to promote the students play skills and to develop friendships with their peers. By liaising with the support workers, the provision of developmentally appropriate activities ensures that students are engaged in their leisure time which has a positive impact on the reduction of behaviours that may be seen as challenging.
This is an approach used with students who have severe and profound learning disabilities to develop their social interaction and non-verbal communication skills through repetitive familiar social exchanges with an attentive, interactive partner. The students own mode of interaction and communication is valued and responded to in order to develop turn taking and the enjoyment of positive engagement with others.
Preparation and Post Procedural Play
Play is used as a medium to develop an understanding of hospital procedures or an awareness of conditions such as epilepsy. Having an EEG, MRI scan or a blood test can be a frightening experience. By exploring medical procedures through play activities the student gains an understanding of what is going to happen and therefore a sense of control often resulting in increased co-operation. Specific activities may include looking at books and videos, role play, storytelling or the introduction of relaxation techniques.
The Play Therapist provides counselling through play activities for students who may have difficulties in expressing their specific emotional difficulties verbally. The Play Therapist responds to the student’s communication through their play and provides a non-judgemental safe environment for the student to explore and express their emotions. The one to one attention supports the student in understanding more about their own thoughts and feelings and they become better placed to deal with them resulting in reduced anxieties.
The Play Therapist provides training for staff in facilitating play and interaction.