Board Games for Children with Disabilities Interview

Cris Rowan discusses board games for children with disabilities.

Cris Rowan is a pediatric occupational therapist and SIPT trained sensory specialist who worked in the school system for a decade in BC Canada. She is now a CEO of Zone'in Programs Inc, which provides products, workshops and training to address the impact of technology on child development. Cris offers some advice for using board games for children with disabilities.

What are the advantages of using board games for children with disabilities?

In order to achieve optimal physical and mental development, children need to move, touch and connect with other human beings. So many families are turning to technology for children with disabilities due to 'access' problems with board games, which impairs their physical and mental development. Playing different types of board games provides children with disabilities a variety of opportunities to gain essential face to face interaction and communication, as opposed to using the solitary virtual screen.

What advice can you offer regarding playing board games children with disabilities?

Every disability comes with a unique set of challenges. If a child is cognitively impaired or has a mild physical disability, possibly just modifying the rules would allow the child to play the board game. If a child is moderately physically impaired, there are a variety of adaptive devices available to accommodate a disabled child's skill set to enable access to the game. Occupational therapy consultation would result in appropriate prescription or fabrication of such a device. If a child has a severe physical disability and is unable to move, pairing an able bodied child with a disabled child, would offer peer support and a set of 'arms' to participate in the game.

What would you say to those who think that technology should take the place of simple board games?

Technology is destroying the sustainability of our children, as there is no future in virtual reality. Technology has caused the 'triple disconnect', from self, others and nature. Children with high technology use do not get the chance to develop their own identity, and often find solace by escaping into the virtual world of manufactured reality. Children have lost the ability to imagine and create, which is integral to academic performance at school. Relationships with friends and family are deteriorating at an alarming rate, as the dining room table is replaced by the big screen. Children now fear nature, as parents believe the world is unsafe and restrict children to home.

Board games promote essential connection and interaction with friends and family, integral to establishing core self esteem and identity. Board games offer the opportunity to converse and discuss a variety of topics, as well as play the game. Board games require imagination and creativity, as well as challenge cognitive skill building. .

Children with disabilities are often isolated from others due to their mental and/or physical impairments. Technology only further serves to isolate the disabled child, also restricting the essential critical factors for physical and mental development of movement, touch and connection.

What other information would you like to share?

Zone'in Programs Inc has recently completed the Unplug'in Game, designed to help children unplug from technology…see Zone'in products. Through building a sense of self, exploring relationships with others, expanding ideas regarding nature, and finding spirit, children are able to gain the skills they need to unplug from technology.

The Zone'in Programs Inc website has the free download TV and Videogame Help Module for parents and teachers with facts and discussion topics, the Technology Addiction Scale, the Survivor Unplugged Challenge, and the TV and Videogame Schedule with alternative activities.

The 21st century has seen the escalation of two related trends in children, an epidemic of TV and videogame addictions, and a rise in child mental diagnosis and use of medication. I've recently completed the Unplug - Don't Drug policy initiative for Canadian physicians and health governments (see Zone'in Programs Inc for complete document). The Unplug - Don't Drug policy recommends that prior to drugging child behavior, the family first undergo an unplug trial from all technology (other than what is needed for school or work).

Where can we read more about you and your work?

Visit Zone'in Programs Inc for products, workshop and training information, as well as articles, radio and TV interviews, the Unplug - Don't Drug policy, the TV and Videogame Help Module, research reviews, handouts, media kit. Sign up for Cris Rowan's monthly Zone'in Development Newsletter at Zone'in Programs Inc!

Board Games for Children with Disabilities Interview