The Interprofessional Toy Fair and Expo, hosted by the Office of Interprofessional Education, introduced families to toys and methods of play that can be used during development. The event was sponsored by Early Childhood Intervention (ECI), which helps parents with children with developmental disorders from birth to age three. Through early intervention, children are able to grow their skills before they are introduced into the school system.
As a way to help parents with skill development, the fair showcased a book published by 175 Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center students from the School of Nursing and the School of Health Profession’s Occupational Therapy, Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, Physical Therapy and Audiology programs.
The book is used as a guide for parents as they facilitate play with their children who are developmentally delayed or disabled. The spiral-bound books contain information and play ideas for 24 different toys, including ways the toys can be used to promote motor, speech, language, sensory and behavioral skills.
Emily Guberman, Master of Occupational Therapy student, has worked with children throughout her time at TTUHSC. She enjoys employing different strategies of play to build patients’ skills.
“Play is both a means and an end to development in children,” Guberman said. “We use play as a therapeutic strategy because it is something fun and meaningful and engages the child. Play makes sense to kids. They may not know or understand that we are working on neuromuscular education while they are pretending to act out different animals, or that they are increasing their fine motor and visual motor integration skills by putting together a puzzle of their favorite characters, but it's fun and exciting to them. It's a lot more interesting than picking up beads or tracing lines. We also facilitate a child's development so that they are able to engage in play activities appropriate for age.”
“Working on all these skills increases a child’s understanding of the world and their daily encounters,” Guberman said. “All of these together allow the child to better engage in their environment with others and feel a sense of purpose and belongingness.”
Nicolas St. Clair, second-year Master of Occupational Therapy student, worked on the book with his peers in speech-language pathology and nursing, creating a way to build on skills using small finger puppets.
“You look at these little puppets, and you think there isn’t a way for this toy to be developmental, but when all the different professions came together, we found plenty of ways to build on a child’s skills,” St. Clair said. “The movement it takes to play builds the dexterity in the fingers and hand and refines motor skills. The feel of the puppets adds a tactile stimulation, enhancing sensory skills. The speech and language team members came up with ways the toys can help with language development and social skills, and the nursing students came up with safety concerns we didn’t think about. We created all these considerations just for playing with little finger puppets.”
St. Clair worked with several other professions to create developmental play options for the chosen toy, where he learned more from professionals in nursing and in speech-language pathology.
“I learned just how much speech a child can handle,” St. Clair said. “As an occupational therapy student, we always want to be encouraging, but the speech-language pathology students made us realize that children really can’t handle a lot of speech. It can be overstimulating or overwhelming at times.”
By working together, students discovered therapeutic uses for toys created for all children. These methods of play are designed specifically to build necessary life skills.