October 15, 2008
Good thing wheelchairs are lavaproof.
Now go play.
October 10, 2008
Are these children playing football, or pretending to play football?
October 8, 2008
A game is play with rules.
Can you name a type of play without rules?
I think there might not be.
October 5, 2008
The creators of Magic the Gathering, a fantasy card game, have a scale known as the Melvin-Vorthos axis. Magic is set in a universe of epic fantasy. Game cards have painted illustrations, quotes and identities that fit into a storyline. This story material is referred to as “flavor” and has no actual impact on gameplay, which involves complex strategy with a heavy mathematical component.
Melvin and Vorthos are demographic profiles given to describe the player-base for marketing purposes. Melvin thinks of the game as a straight mathematical exercise in pure abstraction; his play would be unchanged if the cards contained no illustrations or story element at all. Vorthos plays the game for the pretend epic-fantasy elements; he would enjoy the cards without the game rules and statistics. Most players fall somewhere in between these extremes and enjoy both to greater or lesser degrees. What is interesting (and frustrating) is that occasionally, players on opposite ends of the spectrum play each other and have a miscommunication because it turns out they are playing two completely different games… together.
All of play falls onto the Melvin-Vorthos axis. Some games reflect reality and some are pure abstraction, with levels of gradation in between. Also, some games cover more of the spectrum than others. Magic covers a wide swath of the abstraction spectrum, while games such as cops-and-robbers or roulette take up a much narrower sliver.
September 22, 2008
Here’s a play activity for kids who use AAC and a wheelchair (although the wheelchair is optional). The wheelchair is an ice cream truck.
What is great about this play scenario is that it encourages interaction, follows a predictable script that is easy to program into AAC, is rather gender neutral (which is a plus, since most of my brainstorming ideas are very boy-centered), and involves pretending to do a favorite activity.
List of things you need:
plastic ice cream
stickers, velcro, or magnetic signs to decorate the wheelchair
AAC system programmed with–
annoying music– Turkey in the Straw, The Entertainer (seriously; what fun is a noisy toy if it doesn’t irritate the grownups in the vicinity?)
“You want ice cream?” “What kind?” numbers 1-10 “__dollars please.” “you’re welcome” “here’s your change”
The thing that people miss is that pretend play requires drama. And drama comes from conflict. To prolong and add depth to the interaction, you need to work within the social script, but add some conflict to the interaction.
“We’re out of that kind.” “That’ll be one million dollars.” “That ice cream is poisoned!”
These kinds of silly improvisations are things that children do on their own naturally, but our AAC kids are at the mercy of our programming. They can’t say something unless we’ve given it to them. As a result, our voice influences their voice. And let’s face it, we’re boring to play with; this is why kids don’t play with us. As long as our AAC kids sound just like us, kids aren’t going to want to play with them either.
September 21, 2008
When I was a boy–and I don’t see any indication that kids have changed any–violent shoot-’em-up play was quite prevalent. I spent my childhood being a Jedi, soldier, superhero, survivalist resistance fighter behind enemy lines, and giant robot mecha pilot.
How might I have engaged in that sort of thing if I used a wheelchair and AAC?
I probably couldn’t. But kids today can. The beauty of the newer AAC devices is that they are fully functioning tablet PCs. The Mercury, ECO-14, and DV all have USB ports just like any laptop.
Oh the possibilities!