On a recent Wednesday morning I was lucky enough to find myself supporting the Noah’s Ark Prime Time session. This group has been running from Noah’s Ark WA in Morley since July last year.
So what is Prime Time? Is it a special broadcasting group? Why do kids need to work on getting good ratings, I hear you ask. No, Prime Time came out of the idea of creating a group for children who have complex needs to play and communicate. They have the unique opportunity to be supported by Laura (Speech Pathologist) and Shirley (Occupational Therapist) who facilitate the children, parents and siblings to explore and play.
How does this differ from a regular play group I hear you ask? Unlike other groups which have more of an open free form play, the therapists work on encouraging communication, using sensory experiences and adapted toys to suit the needs and interests of the child. Most of these participants get regular “therapy or medical” intervention somewhere along the way: but having time to just be kids and play is important too.
The focus for this session was on movement, which for many families usually means a lot of lifting and shifting. To start the group, we sat together on the floor and sang the “Welcome Song”, using voice output devices for the children’s names. This was followed by throwing or rolling a ball within the group, giving us another chance to practise names and the “Your turn, my turn” schedule. The flexibility of this group means we can go with the interests and abilities of the child.
One little boy loves being rocked, but needs support for his head when moving his body, so he had a great time in the saucer rocker. We used the Firefly GoTo Seat on a Eurotrike for a girl who needed more support than a traditional trike provides. Another little girl was side lying (because of her breathing) and used the switch and her body to explore movement and music.
I think the reason the adults like to come is the little bit of “down time” they get in the group. We encourage them to take some ME time and to have a cuppa and chat amongst themselves when the therapists are playing with the children. I think the families gain some new ideas of how to play with their child, even including the siblings in the play activity, so it’s fully inclusive – just like a regular play group!
On the whole the children who come to Prime Time have complex medical and communication needs which can’t be fully supported during a regular playgroup. Well not yet, but let’s hope in the future the concept of inclusive play groups is something we can all embrace.
So how do we sign up? Members of Noah’s Ark WA are eligible to receive an invitation to attend the group. Numbers are limited only by the room and staffing support. If you’re interested and want to hear more please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 9328 1598.