5-2 | The Use of Play Materials in Early Intervention


The Use of Play Materials in Early Intervention
The Dilemma of Poverty

Eva Nwokah, Hui-Chin Hsu, and Hope Gulker


Play is a major component of early intervention for infants and toddlers with special needs. Many of these children are from low-income families with limited resources. The authors investigate the attitudes, practices, and concerns of earlyintervention providers (professionals whose services support young children with developmental disabilities and delay) concerning their use of toys in their work and their worries about poor youngsters without such playthings. The authors’ survey of 320 early-intervention providers revealed that nearly all took play materials with them into the homes of some children but most of them also used items already present there. More than 80 percent of providers gave toys to their clients because of their concern that the family’s poverty made toys scarce. As a group, physical therapists and occupational therapists were significantly less likely to use play materials they took into the homes. Most significantly, perhaps, all providers found that poverty increased the need for related therapist services, for educating parents about play, and for using play materials in therapy. Key words: developmental delays; early intervention; natural environment; play materials, poverty, provider attitudes