Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Fun and Games

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Fun and Games

Article excerpt

When parents ask what is the most important thing they can do to help their child, I always advise them to remember that what exceptional children want MOST is to be treated just like everyone else: to fit in and BELONG.

This means that exceptional parents do all the same things other good parents do to prepare their children for life: nurture skills and competence; help their children make friends; and clearly express their thoughts, feelings, and needs. As parents, we are good listeners; we are proud of our children, both at home and in public. We help our children feel lovable and capable. We advocate, but are careful not to overprotect children from taking the normal, day-to-day risks other children take.

PLAYING AND LEARNING

One of the things that all children love to do is play games. The best way to introduce a child to games is by playing them with parents and siblings, and then moving on to playing with friends. Games teach children many good things, from educational skills to real-life skills such as:

* Honesty (following the rules);

* Cooperation (sharing and taking turns);

* Patience (waiting);

* Persistence (not giving up/completing the task/seeing the game through to the end);

* Concentration (attention span); and

* Making choices and being responsible for those choices.

Practicing life skills while enjoying a game is great for all children, and for exceptional children, these skills may make a difference in their ability to be independent someday. Playing games provides opportunities for success: 1) in participating; 2) in interacting with others; 3) in enjoying the challenge of the game; and 4) in enjoying a sense of mastery.

The most important, though perhaps most intangible, benefit children get from playing games with their families is a strong sense of belonging or "connectedness" to the family group. The feeling of belonging is strengthened by the communication and laughter that happens when families play games together. It is a bond that is the foundation for the child's future interactions with others, when their friendships extend beyond family to peer groups. This bond is something strong and sturdy, which all children need to hold on to in a fast-paced, changing world.

Today there are many choices of family games for exceptional parents and children. While games help children practice various skills, some of them strengthen particular learning skills that can benefit exceptional children. Here are some skills that can be enhanced and the types of games that can help:

* Visual memory and recognition--Games that ask children to recognize objects, images, or people (children enjoy working with make-believe characters) and name them.

* Visual perception, eye-hand coordination, and manual dexterity--Puzzles are a good way to practice these skills (make sure that the puzzle is appropriate to the child's skill level so that he or she will have a good experience).

* Auditory memory and perception--Games that involve remembering a sequence of sounds, or matching sounds to activities or things. A do-it-yourself version of this is to make a cassette tape by recording sounds from around the house (coffee percolating, a door closing, etc.), playing them for the child, and asking him or her to recognize the sounds.

* Color recognition. …

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