A lot of the equipment needed by children with hemiplegia, such as chunky pencils and crayons, non-slip mats and left-handed scissors, is generally available in nursery and pre-school classrooms. Specialist equipment that might be useful includes magnetic boards or clipboards for anchoring paper (or use Blu-tack), an angled tabletop and special seating.
Children with hemiplegia can join in all the usual games and activities that form part of nursery and pre-school, although things requiring two hands or balancing on one leg may be difficult for them. They may also need a little more space in group activities, so as not to feel crowded.
Pre-school activities designed to develop skills such as counting, letter recognition, matching and sequencing and co-ordination are particularly useful to children with hemiplegia, although they may need to have tasks broken down as well as some extra help. Many children with hemiplegia have specific learning difficulties, with reading, spelling or maths. These are not easy to identify at this stage, but it is worth looking out for warning signs such as difficulties with:
- puzzles or matching games
- building blocks
- drawing recognisable figures and objects
- pre-letter formation
- orientation within the nursery / pre-school setting
These are all indicators of possible visuo-spatial problems, and professional help should be sought.
To help children who have problems with puzzles, try using shapes that stick onto Velcro - e.g. parts of a face, car, house etc. that they can join together to make a whole.
To help children who have problems with spacing, use sticky labels to construct bar charts.