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Playdate: Evaluation of a group-based playgroup for children with complex medical needs
What’s the challenge?
Play is an important part of childhood but there have been no programs for play and socialization for children with complex medical needs. Children with complex medical needs are characterized by their medical fragility, are technology dependent and will require health care support beyond what is typically required. Therefore, these children are often unable to participate in playgroups and social activities. Without access to group-based activities that are developmentally appropriate, children with complex medical needs miss out on opportunities to engage with their peers, leading to social isolation and adverse effects on their quality of life. This could negatively impact their prospects in adulthood.
What are we doing?
Working together with parents of children with complex medical needs, VHA Home Healthcare addressed this need by co-designing an innovative group-based playgroup called PlayDate to support play for children with complex medical needs.
This program involves 6 weeks of activities and includes one-on-one healthcare provider support for each child. To understand the impact of this program, our organization is leading an evaluative study to understand the experience of participating children, parents and providers and determine if this playgroup is improving the quality of life of children with complex medical needs.
What have we found?
Preliminary evidence suggests that children participating in PlayDate experience improved psycho-social functioning. Parents felt 100% comfortable with the program environment, program activities and safety procedures. 94% of parents felt a positive impact of the PlayDate program on their lives including having the opportunities for a breather, stress relief and new discoveries about their child’s interests.
Parents would prefer playgroup sessions to be longer hours, and for the program to last for more than the current six weeks. Even with the present six-week program, parents can see positive impacts of the program on their children’s happiness and motivation.