Why are Enrichment Activities Important for Children with Special Needs?
Enrichment Provides Opportunities for Breadth, Depth, and Variety
Learning is all around us. As we live our lives, we continue to learn and grow, even in ways we are not conscious of. As educators, one of our biggest responsibilities is to help our students cultivate a love for learning and seek knowledge and experiences beyond academics.
Subjects such as English and Mathematics taught in formal education help learners explore and identify their strengths in the academic fields. However, while a foundation in these subjects is necessary, these subjects are also less likely to fit individual interests.
Enrichment, on the other hand, aims to provide extended opportunities to students who may be interested to explore other subjects in greater depth and breadth. Hence, enrichment education usually comprises a wider range of activities such as music, sports, art, dance, and more.
Enrichment Helps Us to Find and Focus on our Strengths
Formal education can be stressful due to examinations, and an age-based expectation of a child’s progression. It is even more stressful if our strengths are not in the subjects we study. Enrichment gives children opportunities to explore and find something which they are good at.
According to Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence, the intelligence which we are more familiar with, as assessed by the examination scores in our formal education, is termed as Logical-Mathematical Intelligence. It is, however, just one of the many types of intelligence. Other types include Musical, Bodily-Kinesthetics, Interpersonal, and so on.
Through enrichment activities, we discover other areas in which we are good at, so we can focus on that and build more success in these areas.
Enrichment Helps to Develop Other Life Skills
Through enrichment activities, children develop skills in their chosen field. Children learning art become better painters or sculptors, and children learning the piano become better pianists and performers. Much like learning how to ride a bicycle, these skills follow the child throughout his/her life, and won’t be easily forgotten.
Besides building a skill, enrichment activities cultivate and develop critical life skills such as building character, resilience, motivation, creativity, independence, and confidence. These are abstract skills that are beyond textbook knowledge and experiences, yet are crucial to our children’s development and growth into their adulthood.
Why is Enrichment Important for Children with Special Needs?
Consider these questions: Do our children with special needs have strengths and interests? Do our children with autism need variety? Do our children with ADHD need life skills? Do our children with intellectual disabilities need meaning in their lives? The answer to all the above questions is a resounding yes.
Focus on Strengths and Interests
Our children with special needs, especially those with autism, can benefit from enrichment activities that can help them overcome their learning challenges and processing deficits. Instead of only focusing on academics, we find that children with special needs benefit more when their learning is shifted to life skills and life enrichment, especially when these are aligned with their interests and strengths.
Through enrichment activities, our children with special needs experience:
1. The ability to exercise creativity, which many students with learning differences have as a strength
2. Greater sense of self confidence, further improved by guaranteed successful experiences in the classroom
3. Improvement of gross and fine motor skills and increased spatial awareness
4. Mental and physical breaks, which deviates from the expectation in an academic classroom
5. The ability to exercise new ways of critical thinking and the encouragement to think outside the box
6. Different environments to collaborate with peers – students learn how to collaborate and express ideas in more social group settings with freedom for expression and creativity.Source: https://reader.mediawiremobile.com/accessibility/issues/201468/articles/59ad4ceaf3fca8fd1c34cf03/reader
Benefits of Music Enrichment for Children with Special Needs
Many of our children with special needs have a natural love for music. In fact, we have encountered many children speech difficulty in regular settings, but who can sing along perfectly to nursery rhymes, even fast-paced ones! When we nurture their musical interest, we find that they can enjoy all the benefits that music enrichment can bring:
Keeping in mind Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence, we believe that music can help our children to develop intelligence in many areas.
Enrichment Leads to a Richer, Fulfilling Life
When children with special needs are given the opportunity to explore areas of interest, their personalities begin to shine. Through enrichment activities such as music, children are able to:
- Cultivate meaningful and functional daily leisure or break activities that can be done independently in the school and home settings.
- Enjoy leisure options beyond their school learning years and into adulthood.
- Develop a sense of belonging to their home, peers, country, and culture through a shared appreciation of music.
- Address autism-specific challenges in communication and socialization with music acting as a universal language.
It is our hope that children with special needs can be given opportunities to explore their interests outside of academics. Through enrichment activities, these children can develop skills and hobbies that will continue on into adulthood, resulting in a richer, more fulfilling life.