Nursery Equipment: SEN Resources - On second thoughts

Anne O'Connor
Monday, May 28, 2012

Resources originally designed to support special educational needs can be beneficial for all young children, says Anne O'Connor.

Early years settings will continue to provide for the needs of all children under the revised EYFS within their equal opportunities policies - a requirement that will, of course, include children's physical needs.

The revised statutory framework states: 'Providers must have and implement a policy, and procedures, to promote equality of opportunity for children in their care, including support for children with special educational needs or disabilities. The policy should cover: how the individual needs of all children will be met (including how those children who are disabled or have special educational needs will be included, valued and supported, and how reasonable adjustments will be made for them).'

ADJUSTMENTS

Some children will need reasonable adjustments made to the equipment and resources that promote their physical development within the setting. It is important that we work closely with the child's parents and specialist advisory teams to ensure that we equip our indoor and outdoor provision appropriately to meet the needs of these children. We must involve them in plans for changes to play spaces and review our provision regularly to make sure we continue to meet their changing requirements.

Sometimes very specific adjustments are needed, but aiming to make equipment suitable for everybody is not only inclusive - it also makes economic sense. For example, a double-width slide is double the fun of a regular narrow one, and can also be used by children who need physical support to use the slide. They benefit from the vestibular stimulation of coming down a slide, and a double-width slide enables them to do that alongside a practitioner providing physical support.

It also means that adults (who will not always fit comfortably on a narrow child's slide) can regularly join in the fun of sliding as well, role modelling ways of coming down the slide and supporting anxious sliders.

One of the double-width slides on the market is Wicksteed's freestanding Wide Slide. Play panels from its Tropica Multi-Play range can be incorporated for added play value. A wide slide also forms part of Sutcliffe Play's Toddlerzone Standard Units.

A wide Embankment Slide is available from Steelline. Made from 2mm satin-polished stainless steel, this 1m-wide slide comes with or without handrails and in various heights. Prices start at £1,100 for the smallest (600mm) slide, with a 1.5m slide - about the maximum height suitable for early years settings - costing around £2,600. Entry handrails cost an additional £350.

MOVEMENT DEVELOPMENT

Increasingly, as mainstream settings become more knowledgeable about a range of special needs, settings are also making reasonable adjustments to support children whose disabilities might be less visible. These include children on the autistic spectrum and those with difficulties with sensory processing and integration.

Companies such as Special Needs Toys and Rompa provide a wealth of resources for supporting children with their sensory and movement development. As we grow more knowledgeable about the need to support all children's vestibular and proprioceptive senses, we can look to these suppliers for ideas for equipment that could be in every setting and available to all children.

It is still the case that some children's needs may never be fully recognised or diagnosed, but our growing understanding of the impact of movement and sensory experience on brain development and behavioural issues can help us to equip our settings with playful resources that will support all our children.

SPECIALISTS

Spacekraft

Probably the organisation that is best known to the early years sector, Spacekraft was established primarily to develop a sensory products range aimed at people with special needs.

Now, Spacekraft offers an extensive range of products across a wide variety of categories. These include 'Multi-sensory Learning' and 'Multi-sensory Environments' and 'Sensory Resources', which covers everything from garden musical instruments and books to massage and balance balls.

Special Needs Toys

Special Needs Toys has specific categories of products for the vestibular and proprioceptive senses, though other categories are worth looking at too. In 'Independence', you will find waterproof beanbags (sky blue, fuschia or lime green, £99 each) and a range of soft-play equipment, including a boat (£149). Motor products range from team walkers (£55.00) to soft rubber, orange jellyfish (set of 12, £99) for children to walk on or jump from one to the next.

In the vestibular category, there is the the Jump-o-lene (£59), an inflatable bouncer with high walls and a built-in ledge for sitting or playing, and the Body Rocker (£385), which is ideal for young children as they can lie in the padded semi-circle and be swayed gently from side to side.

Products that are great for building children's proprioceptive sense, and are good fun for everyone, include Body Sox, made of stretchy material that gently resists a child's movement and encourages experimentation with action (small, £49; medium, £59; large, £69). In a similar vein is the company's Fish Tunnel (£159.00), a 4.5m-long tactile tunnel of resistive stretch Lycra. The mouth is hinged, allowing adults to control the opening with one hand.

All children might benefit from time spent playing with a Weighty Snakey (£45.00). Measuring 130cm in length, this bright and tactile snake (available in red, yellow, green or blue) massages the feet as you walk on it. It can be positioned straight, curved or coiled and because of its weight, won't roll to one side as you walk.

Rompa

At Rompa, you will find weighted blankets, a product originally designed to calm children and to improve their body awareness and concentration (£175.95). Other products in the Rompa range include the Southpaw Tube Swing Set (£115.95), Nest Swing (£85.95), Roller Tunnel (£695) and Soft Play Super Set (£725).

Therap-ease

Therap-ease has an online shop specialising in therapy balls and multi-sensory products for children of all ages. One resource worth considering is its Disc'o'Sit Wobble Cushion. These round wobble cushions with pimpled surfaces are always handy to have around as they can help fidgety children feel more secure when sitting for a story and aid concentration. Available in two sizes, they cost £17.99 (32cm) and £19.99 (39cm) and can be used as an alternative to balance boards.

SenseToys

There are both general and special needs resources at Sense Toys. One of its products, Chewlery - a chewy necklace and bracelet - was designed to meet the needs of children on the autistic spectrum and those with other sensory issues who seek oral stimulation by chewing their clothes or other objects.

If the amount of chewed pencils in most schools is anything to go by, then this is something that definitely has a market beyond the world of special needs. Non-toxic and colourful, the necklace measures 42cm when coiled and the bracelet 6cm. Together they cost £14.58.

Additional reporting by Ruth Thomson

MORE INFORMATION

Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage, www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/EYFS%20Statutory%20F ramework%20March%202012.pdf

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