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Title: The play behaviour of young blind children
Author: Ferguson, Roseann Evelyn
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2005
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There are very few studies on developmental patterns of play in blind children. Those studies which do exist suggest that their play is not only delayed but also different in both qualitative and quantitative terms. Study 1 of this thesis gathered descriptive, cross-sectional data on the spontaneously-emerging patterns of play behaviour in 16 ‘educationally blind’ children aged 1 year 4 months to 6 years. Study 2 extended Study 1 by gathering further play data and taking measure of concurrent developmental status, thereby allowing differences in play profiles to be related to both chronological age and current stage in cognitive, language, social, gross motor and fine motor development. All six categories of play commonly found in sighted children were observed in the group of blind children who participated in these two studies: creative, exploratory, constructive, functional, receptive and pretend play. However, frequency and duration of engagement varied between children and across age groups, reflecting both differences in individual developmental profiles and the affordances of the proffered toys.  Many of the play behaviours identified correlated significantly with scores on the developmental measures taken. Children with low scores on sensori-motor understanding, verbal comprehension and expressive language were significantly more involved in exploratory play, and less involved in collaborative, constructive and fantasy play. Although an association between gross and fine motor abilities and functional play behaviour might have been expected, no significant correlations were found with scores on either of the motor measures. In contrast, constructive play, rarely seen in the younger children, was significantly correlated with fine motor abilities, language and social skills. The first two studies observed the children playing mainly with toys which were typically available to them in their nursery/school, and it was noted that certain toys appeared to appeal more to the blind child and to engage them differentially. Study 3 was therefore designed i) to allow a comparative investigation of play patterns when ‘standard’ versus ‘blind-friendly’ toys were made available, and ii) to provide longitudinal comparative data over an 18 month period on the development of play in blind versus typically-developing young children. Four ‘educationally’ blind and 4 typically developing sighted children, matched for general cognitive status, and aged 3 to 6 years, played with toys, books and art materials which either had or lacked tactile, olfactory and musical features. The same 6 categories of play were examined. In all 6 categories, there were differences in play behaviour for both blind and sighted children when play took place under ‘standard’ or ‘blind-friendly’ conditions. The blind children typically performed less well in the ‘standard’ condition, producing less varied play, engaging with significantly less materials, and spending a greater length of time off-task than the sighted children. However, in the ‘blind-friendly’ condition these differences were not evident. Taken together, these findings suggest that the reported delays in the development of play in blind children may, in part at least, be due to the type of toys used in research studies or to the methods by which materials are presented to the children. Given the important role play is believed to have in development, the findings have implications for both educational practice and theories of atypical development.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available