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Creating Age Appropriate Materials for Cognitively Disabled Students

written by: Sharon Dominica • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 1/5/2012

Here is a collection of ideas for activities and materials that you can use while working with older children suffering from cognitive disabilities. These ideas cater for children from ten years old up to adulthood.

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    What are Age Appropriate Materials?

    Children with severe cognitive disabilities are not able to develop the way other children of their age do. So, very often in special schools or other intervention centers they are given toys and activities that are actually meant for younger children to play with. Age appropriate materials refers to the use of toys and activities similar to the ones that are used by other children or adults of the same age.

    This may mean that we have to simplify the activity. It may also mean that we may have to choose different materials to achieve the goals we have set for the child. This article describes ideas for creating age appropriate materials for students with severe cognitive disabilities according to age groups.

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    Why Bother with Age Appropriate Materials?

    Every child or adult with disability deserves our respect. Just the way we do not make our aged parents play with children’s toys, we should not be using little children’s toys and games for older children. Moreover age appropriate materials play an important role in helping a person with cognitive disabilities become a part of his community.

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    Ideas for Children 10- 15 Years Old

    Children of this age are bored of childhood “toys". Introduce children to a variety of arts and crafts. Painting, drawing and making different crafts out of waste are good activities for this age. The focus is to improve a child’s concentration and work behavior. Some children may also enjoy construction activities like building structures with blocks. Provide age – appropriate blocks like wooden blocks instead of the usual plastic ones.

    Girls at this age may be interested in jewelry making. You can also help them practice and learn simple cooking with real objects. Focus can also be given to learning basic number concepts and counting. For teaching, use age appropriate materials like flash cards, wooden blocks, screws and nuts, pulses, stones and other common objects used in daily life.

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    Ideas For Children 15- 18 Years Old

    At this stage, we focus on building the child’s work skills and vocational training. These include neatness and quality of work, following instructions and being able to sit down and work for longer periods of time. At this stage help the child experience activities related to various vocations. Use this to explain more about the vocation.

    This is also a time when we can understand more about the skills and aptitudes of the child so that we can plan for a future vocation. Some activities that can be given are simple carpentry, long craft projects, assisting at some work, gardening, making paper bags etc. Using a token economy will help keep up the child’s motivation as well as prepare them to work when they become adults.

    For games, introduce sports. Teach the child a variety of different sports and how to play them. This will not only help them have fun, it will also improve their coordination and gross motor skills. Alternate options are dance and drama.

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    Ideas for Adults Above 18

    Adults above 18 must be encouraged to work. Work has many benefits for a person with severe cognitive disabilities. It helps a person feel valued and important. It helps a person meet people and socialize. It helps a person be occupied with something meaningful and feel satisfied with it. Adults with severe cognitive disabilities do well in structured jobs. They do well in jobs that are repetitive in nature. They can also work as assistants. They are good at manual work, sorting, packing, assembling, and other such tasks. They can also work well in a sheltered workshop.

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    Benefits of Age Appropriate Materials and Activities

    When we use age appropriate materials for students with severe cognitive disabilities, children feel respected. They are also motivated to do more and work harder. When children with disabilities are exposed to activities that other children their age are doing, integration is much easier. For example, if you have introduced soccer to the child, he may be able to join in and play with other children his age, but if you have not, he will only try to catch and throw the ball and not understand what the game is about. Age appropriate materials also help us work towards goals like vocational integration and independent living.