Science week ideas for children with complex needs/multiple disabilities- by Janet Harwood

scienceweekHere are a collection of ideas for Science Week suggested specifically for children with complex needs/multiple disabilities. 

Before you start it is important to take these key points into consideration!

  1. Please remember to use hand UNDER hand technique if support is necessary and always err on the side of caution around certain textures/temperatures etc if you are at all unsure how your child may react.
  2.  Remember it is generally better to only use one sense at once to allow your child to process the activity and avoid distress.
  3. Make sure your child is as comfortable as possible. Allow lots of time in order to make this a meaningful and most importantly enjoyable learning experience.
  4. It may be better to focus on one area that you know would link into experiences your child presently enjoys.

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The different areas of Science you could consider!  Keep things simple and remember Science is a very broad area it isn’t ll Bunsen Burners and dissecting frogs.

  • Opportunities to listen to different sounds, types of music, introduce gently!
  • Some children like louder sounds such as banging on an ocean drum and turn taking in sound making/music type activities
  • Water play, then introduce bubbles which will change the feel of the water (ensure water is at a body heat temperature to start with)
  • Some children may be happy to explore cooler temperature water, or slightly warmer, again hand UNDER hand if unsure.
  • Opportunities to explore items of different texture, not just rigid plastic, mouthing is fine as this well as handling objects tactually gives sensory information which helps to build a ‘picture’ about the item being explored.
  • Safe everyday objects such as a variety of spoons made from different materials and  different sizes, pans which the spoons can be banged against for children who enjoy making sounds, spoons from different materials will make different sounds.
  • Make up different types of doughy substances, encourage your child to feel them, maybe push and squeeze them, if your child is interested and able to grip them you may be able to use something such as a springy dough or theraputty to develop the basic concept of resistance by pulling gently on the other end as in a tug of war.
  • Give different fabrics or papers which they can crush or handle, do they have preferences? Remember not to give too many at once, two might be enough.
  • Make an exploration board, fix items securely using elastic to a board, you may choose to use things which share common properties such as different cups, balls etc, ensure there are no sharp edges or parts which may come loose which may be swallowed. These may be common domestic items, strings of beads of different sizes and materials eg metal, plastic, this can encourage investigation.
  • Opportunities to use switches to develop communication, activate toys or domestic items, some children may be able to, ipad apps which demonstrate development of the concept of ‘cause and effect’ or encourage development of visual skills such as fixing, tracking, shifting gaze from one object to another.
  • Exploration through smell of different foodstuffs, herbs which may be crushed, this could then, where appropriate be developed as a tasting session. This should be structured carefully, if food is pureed only offer one type of food at a time do one type of food at a time for tasting.
  • Learn about plants, give the child opportunity to explore leaves, cones etc be careful to supervise! You could use fresh leaves and also dry some leaves of the same type out gently in an airing cupboard or warm dry place. Your child could then explore the different textures. Flowers with scent are also another thing which they might like to smell. 

Throughout all these activities it is important to allow the child to explore for themselves, simply brush an item gently against the child to encourage them to reach for it or use hand UNDER hand technique, NEVER hand OVER hand.

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