MEASURING THE PLAYFULNESS OF CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS IN OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST LED, CAREGIVER-INCLUDED COMMUNITY PLAYGROUPS
The aim of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of community playgroups on the playfulness of children ages 15 months to 3 years with special needs. In addition to playfulness of the child, the sensitivity and responsiveness of the caregiver were examined. A quasi-experimental, pretest-and-posttest, repeated measures design was used to follow eight children and their caregivers receiving early intervention services and taking part in a community playgroup. The children and their caregivers were measured during a 4-week standard-of-care baseline, before and after an 8-week intervention period, and 4 week post-intervention. The Test of Playfulness (ToP) was utilized to measure playfulness at baseline, before and after intervention, and at follow-up. Qualitative ratings for caregiver-child interaction based on the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development scales measured the sensitivity and responsiveness of the caregiver. A repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) demonstrated that participation in the 8-week playgroup significantly increased child playfulness (p < .01). Analysis did not detect a change in caregiver sensitivity and responsiveness as a result of intervention. All caregivers who participated in the playgroup were initially highly sensitive responders to their children. Four weeks post-intervention, a strong, positive linear relationship was found between the sensitivity and responsiveness of the caregiver and the playfulness of the child. The effectiveness of the community playgroup has implications for part of comprehensive occupational therapy practice in early intervention.