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Integration through playing

by Meru North Disability Community Centre staff

Integrated Play Groups in Kenya

Every Friday the staff of the Disability Community Centre (DCC) strikes off to attend an Integrated Play Group (IPG). There are four of those Play Groups in villages next to Maua, the town in Eastern Kenya where the DCC is located. Additionally there is a Play Group at each first Thursday of the month at the Centre in Maua.

Many children, with and without disability attend the open air integrated play groups

The DCC has adopted the IPG model (Created by Pamela Wolfberg) as a social approach to rehabilitation for children with disability. Over the last years it has developed to become of the DCC's core activities.

Through Integrated Play Groups differently abled children have an opportunity to enjoy play experiences that encourage social interaction, communication, play and imagination (such as pretending, constructing, art, music, movement and interactive games) and simply have fun and make friends.

A skipping game organised by one of the integrated playing groups

To encourage social integration parents, teachers and schoolmates of the children with disability are asked to join in the Play Groups, where they can sing, dance and play together and at best discover their manifold strengths and a way to respect and love each other.

Often members of the local self-help groups for people with disability and parents of children with disability participate as well. In this way they can get in touch with people who are not members of the self-help groups, but would benefit from a membership.

After the play activities children with physical and intellectual disability are seen by the physiotherapist, orthopaedic technologist, disability nurse and occupational therapist. They are invited to come to the Centre at Maua for further therapy and consultation if they are not already DCC clients.

Another objective of the integrated play groups is to create awareness and spread information about the issue of disability. Many people in Kenya still believe that children with disability should be hidden from the public, because they are said to be cursed. Therefore the Play Groups take place on the public playgrounds of primary schools instead of indoors.

Young boy with a physical disability playing with friends in an outdoor playgroup

The toys used for the play activities are made from locally available materials to show parents and teachers, that it is possible to continue the playing at home or in the classrooms. Furthermore parents and teacher can take part in a three days training session about the concept of Integrated Play Groups.

More information about the groups is available on the Meru North Disability Community Centre website in an article about the Integrated play group at Athiru Gaiti Primary School

About the DCC

In May 1997 a Disabled Children's Clinic (DCC) was founded by Paul Lindewood, a missionary from UK. It belonged to the Maua Methodist Hospital (MMH) Maternal and Child Health Department and provided medical and educational assessment services for children with disabilities through a Paediatrician, working at MMH, and the Education Assessment Resource Service (EARS) from the Meru North District Education Office. This initiative was co-ordinated by the Methodist Church in Kenya (MCK) Disability Programme.

In March 2002 the organisation became known as the Meru North Disability Community Centre (DCC). This was in recognition of its intent to work with adults, as well as children, and develop a stronger Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) ethos. A team of an occupational therapist, a physiotherapist, a paediatrician and an education worker facilitated this work. A community development worker supported the development of people with disability and parents of differently abled children self-help groups in the district. Up to now 33 self-help groups have been formed.

Besides the self-help groups the DCC started an initiative to establish Child to Child activities in local primary schools and Integrated Play Groups. To support young adults with disability a vocational training project was introduced. Currently there are ten young adults included in this project.

Playing on the slide at an integrated play group

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