Unit 2: Concept and understanding of recreational therapies

2.1. Need and importance of recreational therapies for children with developmental Disabilities

2.2.   Types of recreational therapies and their importance from the teacher’s perspective

2.3.   Yoga therapy aim, scope and role in education of children with developmental Disabilities, therapeutic yoga


2.4.     Play therapy - aim, scope and importance for children with developmental Disabilities, special Olympics, international and Indian scenario

2.5.     Music and performing arts aim, scope and importance for children with developmental   disabilities.












2.1         Need and importance of recreational therapies for children with developmental Disabilities


Play is a powerful thing. For people dealing with a physical, emotional, or mental health issue, therapy in the form of recreation can be especially powerful.

Recreational therapy can help rebuild skills, improve mood, boost quality of life, and strengthen social connections. These are just some of the benefits of targeted recreational therapy on your health and well-being.

This article will take a closer look at what recreational therapy is, how it can be especially beneficial, and the steps you can take to find the right therapist.

What is recreational therapy?

Recreational therapy, also known as therapeutic recreation, is a systematic process that utilizes recreation and other activity-based interventions to address the assessed needs of individuals with illnesses and/or disabling conditions, as a means to psychological and physical health, recovery and well-being. Further, "Recreational Therapy” means a treatment service designed to restore, remediate and rehabilitate a person’s level of functioning and independence in life activities, to promote health and wellness as well as reduce or eliminate the activity limitations and restrictions to participation in life situations caused by an illness or disabling condition. 


Recreational therapy is not all fun and games. There is a purpose behind the activities that are specifically targeted to each patient.  When individuals are suffering from a physical injury or mental illness, they need help learning, not only how to live with their disability, but to enhance their quality of life by reducing the isolation that patients experience and helping them to participate in leisure activities.


Recreational therapists (RTs) seek to reduce depression, stress and anxiety in their clients and help them build confidence and socialize in their community. 


Individuals who use our services become more informed and active partners in their own health care. Prescribed activity assists individuals in coping with the stress of illness and disability and prepares them for managing their illness and/or disability so they may achieve and maintain optimal levels of independence, productivity, well-being, and quality of life.


Recreational therapy improves quality of life and productivity for individuals with disabilities.

Recreational therapy can take place in a variety of settings, including:

Your therapist will typically try to match your activities to your interests. Some of the activities that may be part of a recreational therapy program include:


Recreational Therapy is an integral part of a patient’s treatment, as well as a service benefiting consumers of community services. Recreational Therapy enhances participant outcomes and reduces healthcare costs by:




2.2         Types of recreational therapies and their importance from the teacher’s perspective


Recreational therapy utilizes fun play activities to help children with disabilities, whether the disabilities are physical, mental or emotional, to learn daily living skills, improve socialization, and enjoy time with family and friends. Some of the benefits of recreational therapy for children include adaptive recreation skills; improvement of attention, memory, perception, hand/eye coordination, and orientation; development of leisure skills; leisure education; pain management; physical conditioning and exercise activity; socialization; stress management/coping skills; and time management. Although each recreational therapy is unique, all share several goals in common. These goals include improving the physical, mental, and emotional wellness of the children through education, treatment (activities), and peer interaction; identifying past, current, and future leisure interests to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle; and helping the children learn valuable life skills for successful integration into home, school, and community based activities.

What kinds of activities help reach those benefits and goals? Here are several examples:

§  Shopping and mall excursions teach teenagers with disabilities time and money management skills and helps them socialize within the community.

§  Taking young children with disabilities to the circus is not only entertaining for them, but it helps them with their attention, orientation, perception, and memory and helps them participate in recreational activities.

§  With the Paralympics in London in full swing, orchestrating a Recreational Therapy Program’s own version of the Games is a great way to help the children exercise and develop a love of sport.

There are several different types of recreational activities for children with developmental disabilities and their parents to choose from. Parents can choose the types of activities that best suit the needs of their children.

Types of recreational activities include:

·       Aquatic therapy: Water play is a very beneficial therapy for kids with limited mobility or speech delays and feeding issues. Aquatic therapy allows children with cerebral palsy to perform movements they would not normally be able to on land. Water also alleviates pressure on joints and muscles and improves respiratory ability. This reduction of pressure can be beneficial for children with Erb’s palsy.

·       Reading: Regardless of your child’s developmental level, reading can help them improve their speech and language skills. Reading can help your child with speech as they name objects in the book and practice sounds. Reading can also provide a wonderful bonding opportunity for you and your child.

·       Toys: Playing with toys is a great way to improve sensory development and build motor skills. These are a wide range of toys that have been adapted to meet the needs of children with Erb’s palsy and cerebral palsy.

·       Outdoor Activities: No matter your child’s mobility level, outdoor activities such as going to the zoo, a park or the beach helps with sensory development. These activities can also help your child meet new friends.

·       Camps: There are specialized camps for children with birth injuries like Erb’s palsy and cerebral palsy. These camps have specialists who work with children with birth injuries as their profession. These camps often include entertainment, nature trails and pools.

·       Sports: Adaptive equipment can help children with disabilities participate in sports and stay physically active. Sports are a fun option for staying active and meeting new friends.

Before analyzing the effect of recreations in educational curriculum, it is important to know the impacts and necessity of recreations in one’s life as a whole. Due to the intricacies in present day society and the way of living, students nowadays are weaker than their older generations, both physically and emotionally. This gets reflected in their physical, emotional and mental health as well as their behavior and development which all the more calls for bestowing on recreations the importance that it deserves. Various studies have shown the importance of recreations on one’s life specifically in three aspects- physical health, mental health and improving quality of life.

§  Physical Health: Recreational activities, especially outdoor ones improve one’s health like maintaining lower body fat percentages, lowering blood and cholesterol levels, increasing muscular strength, flexibility, muscular endurance, body composition and cardiovascular endurance. Overall it increases one’s stamina and energy level resulting in more focus for academic activities besides also having an impact on one’s class attendance and attention thus leading to more learning. And as we all know “health is wealth”.

§  Mental Health: Mental health is essential for overall physical health. Recreational activities help manage stress. It provides a chance to nurture oneself and provides a sense of balance and self-esteem, which can directly reduce anxiety and depression. There is also an increased motivation to learn as it can serve as a laboratory for application of contents learnt in classrooms teaching. It provides a channel for releasing tension and anxiety thus facilitating emotional stability and resilience. Such activities help students to become more self-reliant, emphatic and self-disciplined.

§  Improved Quality of LifePeople who make recreation a priority are more likely to feel satisfied with their lives overall, according to an American Recreation Coalition Study, 2000. Recreational activities help create a balance between academic pressures with physical and mental well-being. The effects of recreation are multifold. It enriches self-expression, self-fulfillment ability, interpersonal skills, techniques and methods of using leisure, physical strength, creative expression, and aesthetic sense. Such attributes have a favorable effect on human beings who have limits in everyday life. Therefore, recreation is allowed to be used as a tool of therapy (Lee, 2000). Physical activity-based recreation helps participants recover from the deteriorated physical strength, caused by the lack of exercise, and develops the latent ability to achieve self-realization. This also helps people to deal with common day to day problems more effectively as it makes people more optimists and with a positive outlook to life.

Coming to the point of including recreational activities in educational curriculum, it can be said that the present generation spends less of their time in natural surroundings leading to a weakening of senses both physiologically and psychologically. Guardians, academic institutions as well as the government should find out every possible opportunity to include recreations in a student’s life for an overall holistic development of mind and body. If such opportunities are lessening in a home set up, then it should be part of the educational curriculum where a student spends majority of his/her time. In fact, recreational activities in an educational set up will be academically more enriching for the student in many ways:

§  Students are more enthusiastic to learn in outdoor learning activities as compared to traditional indoor setting and also more motivated. They also develop a better attitude towards the environment and more responsible behavior

§  It helps in building communication skills and team building as students have to work in groups to solve problems. There will be more discussions of ideas and feedbacks and helps students to resolve conflict among themselves

§  It also helps in boosting memory as there is more practical experience and the information can be soaked up wholly by the brain in a more fresh and fascinating environment

§  It also helps in moral development as students get the opportunity to undertake leadership, question actions and regulations and accept responsibility for their own behavior.

§  Enhances peer relationships and interpersonal skills. Students can also excel in areas other than academics where they have an interest. Recreational activities can give a chance to discover talents other than academic excellence which can later help one in the career and life as a whole.

Overall it can be said that, recreational activities help in overall development of a student’s physically, mentally, and emotionally. It not only helps to gather knowledge but to use it ethically to lead a healthy and better life. It teaches one to think with reason and live with a more practical approach to life. It also enhances ones all round development, thus helping to achieve success in ones endeavors.



2.3         Yoga therapy aim, scope and role in education of children with developmental Disabilities, therapeutic yoga


Yoga is a system of mental, spiritual and physical development which originated in our country. Yoga means to bind together. There are many branches of yoga. The popularly used one is Hatha Yoga, which involves expression and conservation of energy. This type of yoga incorporates asanas (postures) along with pranayama (breathing exercises). Yoga is being tried quite effectively to control children with hyperactivity.

The teacher must be well trained in yoga before teaching children with mental retardation.

Differences between physical exercise and yoga

Yogasanas and adaptations for persons with mental retardation

Practice of Yoga is being tried with children with mental retardation to

Practice of yoga involves Asana – meaning posture and Pranayama – meaning regulated breathing. An individual doing asana must experience comfort and should maintain steadiness in given posture (Desikachar, 1982).

Pranayama is usually praticed in a comfortable sitting position. It involves breathing in, holding breath, exhalation and retention after exhalation.

There are five basic positions in which asanas can be performed: 1. Standing, 2. Supine (lying), 3. Inverted, 4. Prone (lying), 5. Sitting, kneeling.

What type of Asanas can persons with mental retardation perform?
How can I teach breathing techniques?

Eg.1. Uttanasana

Here, the posture begins with standing movement. Ask the student to raise hands, then bend forward, and touch the floor. Ask him to slowly come back to standing position.

Some children may have difficulty in raising both hands. Break task into smaller steps.

i. Ask child to stand. Provide support of a bar or wall if required.
ii. Let him raise one hand first, then the other.
iii. If he has difficulty in maintaining this posture, place an object – a ball or a book in his hands or
    ask him to interlock fingers.
iv. While bending down, allow him to bend knees slightly if he has difficulty. If he cannot stand,
     allow him to sit on a stool chair and then bend.

Eg.2. Trikonasana
This asana involves twisting to one side. It helps in bilateral balance.

Here, the student is required to extend one leg forward, twist body and bend to one side, which may be difficult. Turning the foot which is forward in the direction of the body will help.

Eg.3. Paschimatanasana

This involves the following steps.
i.  Sit straight with legs extended.
ii. Raise hands above head.
iii. Bend forward.
iv. Touch toes.
v. Slowly come back to sitting position.

Provide support of wall for those who have difficulty in sitting straight. Allow them to bend knees slightly if required.

Eg.4. Dhanurasana

i. Lie prone on floor.
ii. Raise hands backwards.
iii. Raise legs.
iv. Hold each leg at the ankle with each hand.
v. Maintain this posture for few seconds and release.

Allow them to raise one leg and hand at a time and introduce counting at each step. This may be taught for children who are high functioning.
Alternate counting by student and teacher will help maintain student interest. Counting aloud while bending forward also facilitates exhalation.
Let children practice one or two asanas at a time repeatedly. After 15-20 minutes of practice let them rest – prone on the floor.
Take support of trained yoga teacher and learn aasanas well. Let the teacher teaching children. Consult the teacher for modification so that you don’t make a mistake.


THERAPEUTIC YOGA refers to the application of techniques and practices to support people facing physical and mental health challenges.  

Along with its sister discipline Ayurveda, yoga has been practised therapeutically for thousands of years. Krishnamacharya – known as the father of modern yoga – often integrated therapeutic elements into yoga. B.K.S Iyengar also suggested poses for the treatment of asthma, high blood pressure and diabetes in his book, Light on Yoga. Iyengar was just one of many teachers that advocated the use of yoga for a number of common ailments.

More recently, therapeutic yoga has emerged as a discipline of its own. In a therapeutic class, a teacher will tailor practices for different health conditions. These conditions can range from physical ailments through to emotional distress.

Philosophy and Principles: This style of yoga takes a whole body or holistic approach. This considers the overall health, physical, mental and emotional condition of an individual. It then adapts to and works with whatever limitations are present.

Best of both worlds: This style is a marriage of traditional yoga, acupressure points, marma points, Reflexology and even massage, with science. It blends modern-day knowledge we have about disease and stress with the proven holistic health benefits of traditional practices.

Benefits: Therapeutically-orientated yoga can help to ease conditions like allergies, arthritis, digestive issues, thyroid conditions, depression, sciatica, multiple sclerosis, headaches, insomnia and many other ailments.



2. 4 Play therapy - aim, scope and importance for children with developmental Disabilities, special Olympics, international and Indian scenario


Definition of play:
As defined in “Adapted Physical Education and Recreation” by Sherrill, play refers to the spontaneous, pleasurable behaviours through which children interact with their environment. In non-disabled children, play is inborn and instinctive, and they progress through easily observable stages right from exploring and manipulating the environment during infancy to grasping complex rules, strategies and regulation as in competitive games, when they grow older.

Most children utilize their time outside school in unorganized or structured play activities. They are attempting to use play as a constructive activity and an outlet for excess energy. Earlier theorists proposed four major explanations of play. The first was the surplus energy theory (Schiller et al, 1875). According to this, the reservoir of energy left over after the basic needs of the body such as food are spent on play.

The second is the relaxation and recreation theory of play, proposed by philosophers Lazarus (1883) and Patrick (1916). In contrast to the first, this theory proposed that after engaging in physically and mentally exhausting work, the body is drained of energy and needs sleep. However, in order to achieve full restoration, it first needs to engage in play activities, that help one relax and release pressure.

The third is the practice or pre-exercise theory of play (Gross, 1898, 1901). The purpose of play according to this theory is to practice skills necessary for adulthood.

These theories influenced formulations of contemporary theories of play, which can be categorized under (a) Piagetian, (b) Psychoanalytical and (c) arousal theories.

Piaget focused on cognitive development and interpreted play in terms of its relation to the development of knowledge. The four major stages of development are:

1.     Sensory motor stage (0-24 years of age): Children discover properties about objects around them by engaging in organized patterns of behaviours (schemes).

2.     Preoperational stage (approximately 2-7 years of age): Thinking in this stage is intuitive and illogical.

3.     Concrete operational: At this stage, thinking is in terms of operations, primarily at a concrete level.

4.     Formal operations (12 years and above): Abstract thinking and problem solving begins here.

At different developmental stages, children engage in different qualities of play. Practice play occurs during sensory motor stage. Body movements in new born babies are reflexive, and involve no interaction with outside stimuli. Around 4-8 months, babies will discover a relationship between reflex action and outside stimuli. For eg. If a baby kicks and the milk bottle falls, she will repeat the action to see the bottle falling. As a consequence of this knowledge of cause and effect relationship, she begins to engage in more and more of such behaviours. Through trial and error, she is beginning to learn more and more about the world. At the preoperational stage, the predominant quality of play is symbolic (one thing represents something else). From here, child moves from solitary play such as pretending the chair she is sitting to be a scooter, to parallel play (preschool age). Here, she may play with the same toys sitting next to others but not interacting initially. Finally, cooperative play emerges, which is related to mastery of language, which in turn facilitates social interaction.

The third category of play which involves rules, emerges during middle and later childhood. Play becomes more competitive and abstract. It is not first about having fun but winning. Generally, it is believed that children with mental retardation also progress through same stages of development as above but at a slower rate. On observation, it is found that these children do not usually interact with toys in the same way as the non-disabled peers. Symbolic play in particular seems to be absent (Barnett et al, 1985). A similar finding has been noted in children with autism (Rutter et al, 1978, 1982). However, there are exceptions as in case of many high functioning children with Down’s syndrome. These children are excellent mimics and have been observed engaging themselves in pretend play such as miming sequences seen on television and using one set of objects as symbols for a variety of other play activities.

Organizing play activities for children with mental retardation
To help children with mental retardation, learn how to play and enjoy playing, a teacher needs to keep the following points in mind.

Pre-school level

Any old cardboard carton will serve as a wonderful play area for an infant. Suspend variety of objects at different heights and observe child at play. This is extremely useful in teaching children with severe/profound mental retardation to communicate. For example, when he shakes a rattle, provide food. When this process is repeated, over a period of time, he learns to relate shaking of rattle to hunger/getting food.

Models of vehicles (pulling and pushing type) and ball can be used to encourage interaction with others. In the classroom, organize play corners. Arrange sets of play material at each corner. Tell them `children let’s go on a bus ride. As we stop at each place, take a look around. Choose a place of your liking and play there’.

Depending on their availability, each corner can have kitchen sets, musical instruments, water play items, sand or clay, blocks and beads. Through this, you will be developing their abilities to imagine and make choices. Observation of children at play will help you assess their abilities and talents.

You can use old newspaper for a variety of play activities as given below:

In the playground, provide a variety of material such as swings, merry-go-round, slide and see-saw. This will help develop their gross motor skills of jumping, climbing and balancing. You can make your own outdoor play equipment using used truck tyres, rope, cardboard boxes and planks, and chairs/tables of different heights. Make sure the material does not have sharp edges and is safe to handle.

While planning:

Use board games such as puzzles, `snakes and ladder’ and carom to develop group cooperation skills. Before beginning – ask child to say `my turn’ by pointing to self or verbally. This helps in teaching child his name and names of his friends, waiting for turn, and cooperating. By asking two children to fit a six piece puzzle together, you will be helping them learn the concept of sharing. Think of more games where children will need to share toys and wait for turn.

Moral/sportsmanship development
While children without disabilities generally understand simple game rules by the age of 4, children with mental retardation lag behind in readiness for organized games. They exhibit conceptual rigidity in playground behaviour. This is often misinterpreted as bad sportsmanship. Generally, children from four years of age to adolescence tend to regard game rules as sacred and absolute and are taught that obeying rules is a part of good sportsmanship. The motivation for obeying rules follows a definite developmental sequence. Table-1 presents stages in moral development as proposed by Lawrence Kohlberg.

Special Olympics

Special Olympics is an international organization dedicated to empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and competition. The Special Olympics mission remains as vital today as it did when the movement was founded in 1968. Special Olympics strives to create a better world by fostering the acceptance and inclusion of all people. Special Olympics offers more than 1.4 million children and adults with intellectual disabilities year-round training and competition in twenty-six Olympic-type summer and winter sports with no charge to participate (Shriver 2003). 

"A person with an intellectual disability is one who, from childhood, develops at a below average rate…the person experiences unusual difficulty in learning and has difficulty in applying the skills needed for daily living" (Best Buddies). More than 7.5 million Americans have an intellectual disability (formally known as mental retardation) and more than 200 causes have been identified. 

The Special Olympics story is an unprecedented global movement that, through quality sports training and competition, improves the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, and in turn the lives of everyone they touch (Shriver 2003). It allows these people to realize their full potential and develop skills to become fulfilled and productive members of their families and the communities in which they live.

The 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games opened on July 25, 2015 in Los Angeles, California (Special Olympics). The city was host to 6,500 Special Olympics athletes from 165 nations competing in 25 Olympic-type sports (Special Olympics).

Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver created the "Athlete Oath" of the Special Olympics. She opened the first Special Olympics Games with these words that are still recited today before every activity: "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt" (Special Olympics 2004, NP). 


The Special Olympics is a grass-roots movement that provides opportunities for a usually ignored group of people and the rest of society. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley said to Shriver, "You know, Eunice, the world will never be the same after this" on the day of the first International Special Olympic Games (Ibid, NP). This has been true for the disabled, their families, their peers and the rest of society. The families of Special Olympics athletes are encouraged to play an active role in their community program, to share in the training of athletes and to assist in the public education effort needed to create greater understanding of the emotional, physical, social and spiritual needs of people with intellectual disabilities and their families (Zulewski 1994). 

Special Olympics activities take place in public, with full coverage by the media, so that athletes with intellectual disabilities may reveal to the world those special qualities of the human spirit in which they excel—skill, courage, sharing and joy (Harmer 1992). The program aspired to change the negative attitudes and misperceptions about people with intellectual disabilities, replacing stigma and rejection with an emphasis on potential, ability, and acceptance (Ibid). 

CEO Timothy Shriver says the Special Olympics will serve as the method for lasting change in the public’s attitudes toward the inclusion of individuals with intellectual disabilities in every aspect of society in every country on the planet (Shriver 2003). Shriver leads the International Board of Directors and serves together with over 5.6 million Special Olympics athletes in 172 countries to promote health, education, and a more unified world through the joy of sports (Special Olympics).



2. 5 Music and performing arts aim, scope and importance for children with developmental   disabilities.


There have been many instances where children have fared average or below average in academic subjects but excelled in sports or arts or music. It is now recognized that there is more to preparation than just academic learning. Bright and Mofley (1977) stress that the ultimate test of our educational system pertains to its effectiveness in assessing students to have a well balanced emotional and intellectual life that includes leisure participation.

Educators are beginning to realize that creative activities not only help develop individual potentials and talent, but enhance learning certain academic concepts. They are interesting, fun to do and experiential. How many of you can remember learning information through a relaxed conversation than through drilling or lecture method? The same implies to children. Learning becomes enjoyable, and there are opportunities to enhance their skills in language, motor abilities and socialization.
Activities such as music and dance, crafts, sports and games and other physical exercises and computers are now being included in the regular timetable. They are now referred to as co-curricular activities. Trained teachers in each one of these areas are appointed and children given a choice to pursue the activity of their interest. In case of children with mental retardation also, the importance of co-curricular activities in their growth and development is well recognized. Many educators have realized that their education must extend beyond the environment of the classroom. Most of them have a disproportionately large amount of leisure time when compared with their non-retarded peers. If they do not acquire skills to utilize their leisure time meaningfully, the problems will be compounded as they grow up. Also, as in the case of all children, creative activities may enhance their learning of academic skills, improve self-image and provide avenues for vocation.

Howard Gardner lists 7 intelligences namely, 1) linguistic intelligence, 2) musical intelligence, 3) spatial intelligence, 4) bodily kinesthetic intelligence, 5) analytical intelligence, 6) interpersonal intelligence, 7) intrapersonal intelligence. He urges the trainers of children with learning problems in academics to look for other abilities in them. Bodily kinesthetic intelligence reflects in performing arts (dance for instance) and games and sports. Musical intelligence is seen in some of the mentally retarded persons with even moderate degree of retardation, excelling in Tabla, Guitar or vocal music.


What are Visual Arts?
Visual arts include all those activities, which involve use of a variety of materials of different colours, shapes and textures in the environment, to create something that we use or admire and/or appreciate. These creations may be of aesthetic value – to be admired as art objects or of some use. The common media through which visual arts are expressed are painting, craft, sculpture, needle craft, weaving and pottery to name a few.

How are they useful?
All children like to take pride in what they have created on their own and look forward to praise and admiration from others. Similarly, children with mental retardation also have the ability to create, take pride in and be admired for their creativity, provided the tasks are broken into smaller steps and are given more time and assistance.
Involving them in creative activities will enhance their visual perception, fine motor co ordination, and improve attention and concentration. These will give an opportunity to develop appropriate social skills.

How do you plan your activities?
It is very important to plan the method of processing each activity for children with mental retardation. The teaching situation should have more visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic involvement and less abstract commands.

Visual cues: When introducing a new activity, demonstrate it first, so that the child sees what participation would be like. Demonstration is very valuable to communicate the nature of the activity as well as in serving as a model of appropriate behaviour.

Auditory cues: Repeated verbal explanation, and simple step-by-step instruction in the activity communicate information and feedback to the student.

Tactile cues: The activity to receive information through the sense of touch has proven invaluable for children with metal retardation, specially so, for those with sensory impairments.

Decide on materials needed, style of presentation, stages of presentation and student involvement before you begin. Be ready with alternatives if things do not go as you planned. Do not make the children wait. They will be distracted and motivating again will be difficult.

Activities We shall now see how activities can be carried out for specific groups of children, keeping in mind their functional abilities, developmental level and degree of retardation.

Pre primary level
The age range in this group is generally between 3 to 6 years. At this age it is important that children play and enjoy themselves and hence conduct activities in a friendly and informal atmosphere. Collect a variety of materials from the environment and make sure that they are harmless, nontoxic and easy for children to handle. Activities suitable for this age would be paper tearing/ rolling/ crumpling, pasting, finger/hand/foot printing, colouring and spray painting, clay modeling and printing with moulds such as leaves, vegetables, cotton or sponge. As a creative teacher it is important that you plan each activity well in advance by following these guidelines.

Sample activity 1: paper craft

Materials: Newspaper, wrapping paper or colour paper and gum.

Give each child a sheet of paper and ask her to tear it to pieces. Apply gum on another sheet of paper and ask her to paste the pieces on it. Alternatively, ask the children to crumple them and paste. Draw any figure around the pasted pieces, or let each child paste inside a drawn figure. Break each task into smaller steps and teach.

Here is how you can break the task into smaller steps:

Hold the child ‘s hand and guide through each step or wherever required telling her in simple sentences what to do. Repeat instructions and praise every attempt.

Use brightly coloured paper to motivate them to participate.
Try pasting other materials such as dried leaves or flowers, cloth or seeds.

Sample activity 2: Printing
Materials: water colours, paper, pieces of vegetables such as potato, ladies finger, carrot, or leaves or coconut fiber.

Give each child a sheet of paper, wet sponge, wet sponge with paint and any one of the above materials. Ask him to dip the piece of vegetable in paint and press it on paper. Sequence the task as shown in task analysis earlier. Initially, let children dip their fingers/palms/ foot in paint and print. Display their creations.

Sample activity 3: Clay modelling

Materials: potters clay/ mud/ plasticine/ play dough
Make sure the above material is smooth and free of stones or twigs. Allow each child to handle it and make his own shapes. Demonstrate making a few models and let children make similar ones if they can. Do not insist that they make exact replicas. Ask them to name what they have created.
Make your own play dough….. Make your own play dough by mixing 1 cup of flour to 1 cup salt. Add water and 1 spoon oil and colour powder. Some children may be hesitant to work with clay. Before introducing activity, give repeated practice of squeezing wet and dry sponge, rubber balls, hinge sound making toys and other materials of different textures. Parents could help them practice at home by also asking them to knead small amounts of dough.

Use creativity and add more activities.

Primary level
Children at this level usually have a basic understanding of names, colours and type of materials that they use. Let the group choose what they want to do – provide required materials and give a specific topic for creation. Children with severe mental retardation may not be aware of the above concepts but it is important that you create an environment which allows them to participate at their own level in each activity. For example, if the activity is paper tearing, allow the child to hold it in his hand and manipulate it in his own way. Make a small tear at the top edge, help him to hold it with his thumb and fingers and tear the paper completely. Give him more time and provide physical guidance till he does it on his own. Children with mild and moderate mental retardation will be able to work on given topic, provided the activity is demonstrated initially using clear simple instructions.
Activities suitable to this group include painting, colouring, making collages, clay modeling, needlework, cutting and pasting. Creative activities can actually be an extension of academic lesson taught. For example, if you have done a lesson on vegetables, let children cut and paste pictures of vegetables, draw and colour vegetable figures, or make clay models of vegetables. By doing this, you will be reinforcing their learning, provide visual, concrete experiences and make learning an enjoyable task.
By working in groups, they learn to share, co-operate, wait for turn and appreciate each others work. Initially let them make their own creations Later give them specific topics to work on, depending on their abilities.

Example: draw/ paint flowers or scenery, draw a picture of celebration of current festival/ seasons, make models of fruits/ household objects/ animals and birds.

Allow them to choose their own colours. Ask them ‘ do you want red or blue’. If they have difficulty in choosing, provide cues like ‘ look at this green ball – choose a matching colour’
There may be some children who can draw simple figures such as sun. In such a case, draw outlines of a simple scenery, without a sun. Ask child to draw the sun and colour the picture. This provides a sense of achievement in him.

Some children may know how to draw basic shapes very well. Guide them to make interesting figures using a combination of few shapes.

Sample activity: Making a collage

Materials: Wool or colored thread, pieces of cloth, gum, paper.

Activities at Secondary/Prevocational level
As in Primary level, here too, children are aware of basic concepts of colour, shape and texture. Creative activities could be used as a means for developing hobbies or leisure time activities or as vocational activities. There are many ways in which you can train them to develop and use appropriate social skills, such as;

Activities such as painting on pots, weaving and stitching, embroidery, bead work, fabric printing, could be developed into vocational skills as they grow older, which will not only develop their creative potential but also contribute towards making them as independent as possible by becoming wage earners.

Activity 1
Stitching: Many children good at embroidery and weaving. Readily available cross stitch cloth with simple designs printed and colours indicated can be used to teach them embroidery.

Some of them may require simplification of the process. To introduce stitching, punch holes in a cardboard at even intervals. Give each student a long shoelace and ask her to bring it in and out of connective holes, line wise. Next, provide a large needle and firm cloth.

Draw straight lines on the cloth in contrast colours. Let the student practice repeatedly.

Activity 2: making letter pads
Materials: plain paper, paint, crayons, card board
Take a plain sheet of paper. Cover it with cardboard, leaving ˝ -1 inch paper at the bottom edge. Let the child color it with paint or crayons. In this manner, prepare as many sheets as required. Bind them together. Take two plain sheets and let children do finger printing on it. Use these as front and back covers. Your letter pad is ready!

There may be students who may not be able to hold a crayon or brush. Ask such a student to press the side of his palm in point and print on paper.

Activity 3: Making Placemats
Materials: Small pressed leaves and flowers, cardboard of chosen colour, lamination facility.

Cut cardboard/thick paper in the size of dining table placemats. Paste pressed flowers and leaves artistically on both sides. Laminate both sides. All these can be done by the retarded youngster – right from pressing leaves and flowers to laminating. Each set of six when sold will fetch him his pocket money!!


Performing arts are a means of expression; of ideas, concepts, thoughts, opinions and abilities, through drama, dance, movement and music. Performance could be through any one of the above media or a combination of two or more.

Importance of performing arts for children with mental retardation
Right from infancy, children listen to music, enjoy making movements to music and listening to stories, especially if they include action and voice modulation. Traditionally, we have had the privilege of enjoying listening to verses/stories/songs narrated by our grandparents- drawn from our rich cultural heritage, across all religions. Mentally retarded children are no exception to them. Broadly, teaching of performing arts benefit children with mental retardation in the following ways.

It is well known that fables featuring animals and supernatural characters such as Panchatantra, Hitopadesha and Aesop’s fables have been repeatedly used to educate children who were labled slow or dull. Recently, various dance forms and playing musical instruments are being tried to reduce hyperactivity. World over, music, dance and drama as therapies are becoming a part of remedial education for children with developmental disabilities. Specific methodologies, are used for set goals according to needs and evaluated.

Children with mental retardation can be taught to appreciate as well as perform these activities, provided they are taught.

Use of performing arts helps you establish a close rapport with children, handle large groups and make learning enjoyable and teaching less tiring for you. According to the age level, you can teach them a variety of activities such as clapping hands, simple rhythmic movements and miming to complex dance forms, singing or playing musical instruments and drama. They contribute towards individual’s overall development and build/improve self- confidence.

As mentioned earlier, it is important that the right cues – auditory, tactile, visual or kinesthetic be selected while planning, depending on individual needs and abilities. Cues should be gradually faded to facilitate independent participation. For example, physically guide a child to do a hand movement in a dance rather than saying right/left, which is abstract. Gradually reduce support and introduce the music.

Let us now see what kind of activities can be taken up for children at various levels of functioning.

Pre primary level
Children at this age enjoy rhymes and rhythm and dramatized stories, especially those involving animal characters.
Sing nursery rhymes along with actions to

Sing or play recorded music and encourage children to move rhythmically or in whatever way they can. According to their abilities, they could do whole body movements, wave hands, shake legs or tap feet or just move their heads. Playing on a percussion instrument is reported to calm down aggressive children. Identification of words fast/slow, loud/soft, high/low can be taught using drumbeats or just by clapping. Allow those children who are shy, just to watch others initially. Gently draw their attention to what is happening. A large mirror in the classroom is a great idea to provide visual feedback, to enable children to see what they are doing, imitate and admire.

Here are some rhymes/songs, which are fun and educative at the same time.

For teaching parts of the body use……..

“Head shoulders knees and toes”
“Clap your hands
tap your feet…….”
Chubby cheeks…..”
“Put your right hand in…….
Do the boogies Woogie…..”
“Here we go round the mulberry bush”

can be used to teach concept of daily routine.

Develop your own rhymes in the local language, which are more culture appropriate and understandable for children.
Draw basic shapes of circle, square and triangle on the floor and guide children to move on the outlines to the accompaniment of music.

Exaggeratedly mime activities of daily routine and let children observe and imitate. Name each activity. Encourage them to name.
Make use of masks and puppets and dramatize familiar stories in 3-4 sequences. Let children wear the masks and observe themselves in the mirror.

Activities for older children Musical activities: Children at primary/secondary levels learn various concepts under environmental studies, social studies, mathematics and science. You could use popular folk tunes or film tunes to create your own rhymes to help them learn the above concepts. Using song form makes learning interesting and enjoyable and helps children to recall what they have learnt quickly.

Rhythmic clapping or drumbeat can be used to teach them to count, identify loud and soft sounds and concepts of faster and slower. Ex: say the number three and ask them to clap thrice.
Sing the seven musical notes and ask them to repeat each sound after you, sustaining each note. This may help to enhance verbal communication.
Sing or play a tape of popular songs. Let them listen and repeat. This could be used as an activity reward for having completed a given task.

Older children may be taught folk songs in their regional language.

Dance activities

Initially, let them form a circle, hold hands and move to music, clockwise and anticlockwise. This will help in warming up. Encourage group participation.

Slowly introduce movements such as raising and lowering hands, coming to centre of the circle and going back, sitting and standing, holding hands on waist and tapping feet. Tying bells (ghungroos) at the feet will make the activity very enjoyable. Also try giving each child a colorful baton or ribbon to motivate them to move.

Take them out to a local school performance or play a videotape of folk dances – tell them to which region it belongs. Draw their attention to the costumes and make up.
Children enjoy dressing in colourful costumes. Include ‘show time’ in your timetable where children get a chance to dress in dance costumes and wear make-up. This will help them overcome stage fear and increase their self-esteem.

They can be taught formal dance, provided each step is taught in small sequences and repeated. For example – first teach hand movements, then feet and then whole body. Counting 1-2, for each sequence will help them remember the sequence. Once they have learnt the steps, introduce the song.
Some children with severe mental retardation may need to be addressed individually, require physical guidance and told repeatedly what to do such as-‘ Raju, bend down, move your left hand’ and once he has learnt, proceed to the next step.

Drama can be used to enhance learning of concepts, teach appropriate social behavior, safety rules and hygiene, current events and about our culture and environment. The visual and auditory cues which drama provides improves learning and retention. You can also use drama to teach them express emotions such as anger, fear and happiness.

Children at pre-primary/primary level learn to name animals, their food habits and their habitat. Their learning of these concepts can be enhanced through drama.

Example: (A lion throws a party and invites some of his friends over. At the party there is a large table with a variety of food. The lion introduces himself. He tells each one of the animals gathered there to tell their names, where they live and what they would like to eat. Each animal chooses his favourite dish from the table. After eating, all the animals dance and have fun together.)

Appropriate music is played at the background and children are dressed in animal costumes. (use masks if costumes are not available). A large cloth, painted with trees and flowers can be used as backdrop.
Dialogues should be simple and short.

Example: Lion:        I am a lion
                                I live in a den 
                                I like to eat meat 
                                And go hunting at night.

Similarly each animal introduces himself. Back in classroom, encourage discussion on the play. For older children, role-play, pretend play or mime can be used, both as a recreational activity as well as an educative one. While planning, consider the following points.

Select sequences from mythology and popular folklore and teach them to enact. Dialogues could be delivered at the background and children trained to mouth the words or mime appropriately. Also record sounds of children crying, laughing and shouting and use this in the background according to the scene. If children are required to use dialogues, make sure it is in familiar language and short.

Children who have difficulty in walking could be given roles where they require to just sit on a throne or be still as an idol or simple repetitive activities like fanning the king or as ushers.

Children who are fond of moving around may be dressed in animal costumes and allowed to run on stage during a forest scene. Make sure it is appropriate and in context.

During craft class, let children do leaf/finger printing on large sheets of paper. Stick them together and use as backdrop for drama.


Training the children in visual and performing art activities is one aspect of CCA and coordination of such activities is another aspect. This requires skills in communication, arranging for resources which may be human resources, materials, funds, publicity…. when the children with mental retardation are found talented in certain areas, creating public awareness by organizing, exhibition, fete and shows is in order. This will not only make the public aware of the brighter side of these children/adults, but also improve the self-esteem of the retarded individual.

The various abilities a teacher should have in achieving this include;

1.     Coordinate among trainers and students

2.     Contact industries and public/private sector undertaking to sponsor shows or materials. For instance paper, crayon, paints and other raw material can be sponsored by stationery companies.

3.     Make them realize it is not charity but an avenue to exhibit talents of persons with special needs.

4.     Contact media/publicity persons for good coverage, a person with mental retardation will also like to see himself on T.V. and newspaper.

5.     Get a popular visual and performing artists in your region to actively participate by making them patrons.

6.     In your school, make sure there are regular classes of visual and performing arts and all teachers and students take part. Make a slot in the timetable.

7.     Whenever possible involve nonretarded peers in organizing conducting programmes.

8.     Be in touch with agencies like VSA to know the current trends and make sure your students participate throughout the year, to earmark some occasion and interschool activities in visual/performing arts taken place. Be informed and make use of it.

9.     Always look for an opportunity to organize such activities.


Physical education plays a very important role in helping a child with mental retardation understand his body in (motion) movement and at rest. It includes instructions in relaxation, opportunities for creative expression, social interaction, practice and scope for selecting meaningful leisure time skills. It builds self confidence and improves one’s self-image.

Adapted Physical Education
Definition: Adapted physical education is the body of knowledge that focuses upon identification and remediation of problems within the psychomotor domain in individuals who need assistance in mainstream education or specially designed physical education services. Since adapted physical education is a part of special education, a multi-disciplinary approach is very essential, as each child’s developmental level and needs differ. It gives scope for educators to develop skills in students through assimilation of many disciplines by including lessons in recreational skills, music and dance, art and drama.
Children with mild or moderate mental retardation who have motor abilities similar to non-disabled persons may be trained in physical exercises, sports and games with slight modifications in terms of rules and complexity of the games. Organizations like the special Olympics give them opportunities to exhibit their skills at national and international levels. You will learn more about special Olympics in the next unit. However, children with severe/profound mental retardation in whom physical growth and development are grossly delayed require adaptations and training needs to be done at a sensori motor level.

Sensori motor training
Sensori motor training, which is the earliest form of physical education for children with mental retardation is done in four main areas of behaviour – namely, (a) level of awareness, (b) movement, (c) manipulation of environment, (d) posture and locomotion.

1.     Level of awareness – help the child to recognize pleasant/unpleasant stimuli – exercise discrimination in anticipating or avoiding future contacts. To evolve avoidance reactions, try hot/cold water, vigorous toweling of skin, restraints such as splints on legs and weight, taps from rubber, hammer and extreme tastes such as alum or lemon. For approach reactions, try pleasant stimuli such as bell ringing, music, human voice, colourful objects, cuddling or drawing closer. Also – children are drilled on discriminatory reactions such as responding to name, obeying simple verbal/gestural commands, or turning towards objects when named.

2.     Movement – As the child becomes aware of sensory stimuli, he must be trained to make more motor adjustments. Initially all purposive movements must be initiated by teacher – (carry, rock, roll, bounce, swing the child). Child may begin with active assistance leading to independent movement. Progression –> roll to side, roll to front to back, roll completely over, roll in a barrel, roll over pillows, rock on a chain or hose, bounce on a bed, jump to seat – swing in hammock or trampoline – continue till sufficient muscle strength is developed to allow sitting and standing postures without external support.

3.     Manipulation of environment – This implies teaching – reaching, grasping, releasing, throwing, holding, passing from hand to hand, rubbing, squeezing, tasting, pounding, shaking, pulling apart and deassembling. It also includes communication – through sounds, gestures, words and self help skills with assistance.

4.     Posture and locomotion – start with lifting head, with lying in different positions, motivate by ringing bell or smell food.

Teaching strategies
Eg. Jumping: Students with mental retardation will be able to learn this skill through task analysis. Before teaching jumping, teach children to fall safely from standing position (a prerequisite movement). This could be done using music and movement activities such as holding hands and moving in a circle and falling down, when you say “all fall down”. Also be more creative and show children creatures which naturally jump such as a grasshopper or a frog!

Such children find it easier to jump from a height to the floor rather than from a crouching position, because losing stability from a height is easier than from the floor.

Find different things in the environment from which children can jump.

1.     Jump down from 8-inch step.

2.     Jump down form 12-inch step.

3.     Jump down form 18-inch bench.

4.     Jump down from 24-inch bench.
Similarly, task analyze activities such as throwing, rolling ball, reaching and pulling. Plan on what movement patterns should they possess before doing the actual task? How will you help them learn these movements?

Planning physical education for persons with mild mental retardation
Do children with mental retardation need Special Physical Education programmes?

Such children are capable of successfully participating in regular physical education classes provided placement is done taking into account the physical and motor learning characteristics of each child. Although they may not acquire high degree of skill of children without disabilities, they can acquire sufficient skills to participate in different activities to increase their physical fitness and improve their body mechanics.

Placement should be flexible in physical training programmes. Some may be placed in special classes, others may be placed in regular classes for small portion of every period. Some may be competent enough to be integrated into a complete physical training period. While placing, keep in mind:

How many can one teacher handle at a time?
Physical education teachers should endeavour to maintain a class conducive to learning. The student-teacher ratio will vary according to the motor skill level of the child and the ability of the teacher. One teacher may teach 10-12 students with mild mental retardation at a time. Research suggests that using trained peer tutors can provide beneficial experiences for students (Houston-Wilson, 1993).

But there is not enough space.....
A distraction-free area in a classroom is sufficient to begin instructions, and opportunities should be provided to utilize new skills within larger environment.

Initially student interest may exist but may not be sustained. To reduce boredom, use attractive pictures, music or play equipment before introducing actual activity. Use sitting and moving activities alternatively.

Do we need a lot of equipment?
Yes. A wide variety of play equipment is desirable – enough for each specific activity so that no child need sit around, waiting for a turn. In addition to commercially available equipment, as an innovative teacher, you may explore the possibilities of using many ordinary items such as boxes/cartons, used tyres, barrels and large pipes, rope, tree trunks, boards and planks.

How can we teach them the importance of physical fitness?
Several researchers have concluded that children with mental retardation tend to have low levels of physical fitness. The low levels may be probably due to lack of opportunity and appropriate programs. But, if programmes are systematically developed and implemented, you will see significant improvement.

What activities are most suitable Can they follow rules

Most children with mild mental retardation can participate in regular sports and games, provided they are integrated as early as possible. They must be introduced to recreation facilities available in the community like swimming, hockey, ball games, skating, cricket, athletics, and other sports events. Participation should begin right at primary level so that as they grow older, these activities are channelized into recreational/leisure time activities or lifetime sports. They should be trained to express their creativity, emotions, imitation skills, anger and elation verbally or non-verbally.

These children are capable of achieving success in team games like anybody else, provided systematic training begins early in life.

Children with moderate mental retardation may participate in games with minimal rules such as running, hopping, skipping, aim and throw, jump rope activities and skating, and in team games like hockey, throw ball and cricket but may not follow all the rules. Older children may perform in individual events like track, swimming and gymnastics.

Activities and adaptations

1. Ball throw

Have children stand in a line one behind the other. The first child is given three chances to throw a soft ball to a peer standing at a distance. He goes to the end of the line after 3 attempts. The peer rolls the ball back to the next child in the row. The child who throws farthest or succeeds in reaching the peer is considered winner.

Reduce distance, vary the size and texture of the ball. Place a box or a pot to throw the ball into. For children with associated impairments such as blindness, use a ball which makes noise. Allow children who cannot stand, to sit and throw.

2. Track and field events
To train positioning of hands and feet in place before signal is given for running, mark outlines of hand and foot where the student has to place them. Use brightly coloured flag or a loud whistle for starting the race. Mark the tracks, starting and finishing points clearly. In a relay race, use bright coloured batons. Reduce the distance for children who have difficulty in running.

3. Wall ball (Primary level)
Divide players into groups of six. They stand in lines perpendicular to a wall, four feet apart. Mark distances every foot, three to eight feet from the wall. First child in each row throws and catches the ball off the wall three times. He then moves to the next mark and repeats throw and catch. If he misses, he goes to the end of the line and the next player gets his turn.
The team where all members finish are winners. A player who completes catches at each mark has finished playing. Others repeat the throw and catch at the point where they missed previously.

4. Balancing activities – book balancing, balancing on beam
If the child has limited balance,

5. Jump rope activities

6. Target activities
Stack empty tins like a pyramid manner. Give each child three chances to aim and hit the tins. Ask others to count the number of tins fallen. Vary the targets to be hit. Reduce distance, size and texture of ball if the child has problems in coordination. Provide a backdrop for easy visibility. Place targets at ground level and allow child to roll the ball if he has difficulty in throwing.

For older students – during games such as shuttle, throw ball, volley ball and basket ball reduce the height of the basket or net. Take them out to watch matches between local teams or on television. Organize friendly cricket matches where students can play with neighbouring school teams.

Games in which the student’s disability becomes an asset, provide excellent opportunities for group cooperation. For example, Blind fold all participants and ask them to locate source of a sound. Student with visual impairment may give them cues to locate.

7. Team games
Team games are especially important for persons with mental retardation because they provide opportunities for large muscle activities necessary for maintaining physical fitness. They also enhance their abilities to contribute to the group effort, and of course social competencies.

Cricket is one of the most favourite games in our country. This can be easily taught with few modifications. Some children may need intensive training in each of the these areas before beginning the game. Begin with throwing and catching the ball. To reduce monotony, have two teams stand in row facing one another. Ask the first child in one row to throw the ball to the child facing him. He catches it and throws to the second child opposite. Continue catching and throwing till the end of the row. Reshuffle the order and teams. Alternatively, let one team stand and the others change positions – sit, crouch, lie down and catch the ball. Once they learn to catch, increase the distance between teams.

For training in taking runs, ask each child to choose a partner. Ask the child who has motor problems to be umpire. Provide prompts for calling/signaling a run.

There are numerous games that children play. Select the game adapt if needed and train the students with mental retardation using the correct blend of creativity and teaching principles.