How to support children with learning difficulties and behavioral challenges through play
Blog by Eszter Harsányi, founder of Eurochild member NestingPlay that works to ease the stress of teachers and caregivers and uses the medium of play to ensure children access their rights to education.
Everyone has the right to a quality education, but for children with behavioural problems and learning difficulties, this right is often denied. And in the children's groups we work with today, this can be up to 50% of the children. And this number is growing steadily which is becoming an increasingly pressing problem for education systems. If this problem is overlooked, these children will struggle in school, and some will even drop out of the education system.
These children are at risk of being shunned socially by their peers because:
- they don't understand the rules of the game
- they ruin other’s games
- they react violently in certain situations.
As a consequence, these children are easily labelled as aggressive not only by their peers, but also by teachers. They often end up on the fringes of social groups - and their right to play is compromised. Teachers and parents are often powerless, not knowing how to deal with them or how to support them.
How we work with educators?
NestingPlay’s main customers are kindergarten teachers and primary school teachers. We enable teachers to include children with learning difficulties into everyday fun.
- We deliver our methodology through trainings with professionals, which entails a complex monitoring system to identify the reasons behind the behaviour;
- How to support delayed developmental areas through play within the child group;
- how to make partnership between teachers the parents of these children.
As we cannot be present and support teachers all over the world, we have also developed an application that is the basis of our methodology. It provides games for inclusion and helps teacher to design their avtivity according to the child’s needs.
How we work with children and their families?
We believe that it's not enough to focus on just one actor in education, so we work with children and parents in addition to teacher training. We offer positive parenting programmes for parents, showing them how they can help their child's development during everyday activities at home, such as setting the table or cooking together for fun. We are working to ensure that all children have equal rights to education, play and live in their communities without exclusion.
This is why we are working with families living in extreme poverty and why we responded immediately to the Ukrainian refugee crisis. We organise development-conscious play days for children, which focus on key skills for school, among other things, and place a strong emphasis on socialisation. In addition, during the refugee crisis in Ukraine, we are running safe spaces where children and families can feel safe and get all the help they need.
We see that teachers and parents from different cultures, different financial situations, have the same difficulties and problems when it comes to children with behavioural problems and learning difficulties. This is why there is a need for educators to look at the child in a more conscious way.
We believe that a child is a child, no matter where they come from and our ur mission is to teach everyone to play together. Because play matters for everyone. And if we do nothing, these children will be lost in the system and more and more will drop out of the school system, and this is a loss of human potentials that we cannot accept.
Eszter Harsányi is an award-winning Ashoka Fellow social entrepreneur, mother of two boys – one of them is a disabled one. She became a social entrepreneur after the birth of her second son, who was born with epilepsy. She founded NestingPlay to provide solutions for the obstacles her son and others like him faced to be fully included in society.