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In a study investigating the benefits of cerebral palsy peer activities, a peer-mediated motor training program using the socially directed behavior of training peers to increase motor responses was used to monitor the social responses of children with severe disabilities. It was found that when encouraged by peers, children with severe disabilities could increase motor responses. Additionally, the opportunities to demonstrate, maintain, and generalize social and motor skills were proven during the typical play and socialization experiences of the childcare settings, like playtime. Results from this study lend support for the use of peer-mediated motor training for preschool and older children with severe disabilities to increase targeted motor responses during the typical play and socialization experiences of inclusive child care settings.
While proven that cerebral palsy peer activities can benefit a child’s motor and social skills, access to the proper environment is necessary. Places like the CP-Center in Wisconsin provide three separate programs that include a birth-to-three program, a pediatrics program which handles ages three and up, and an adult program which provides day services for adults over the age of 18 who no longer have access to school services. The ranges of cerebral palsy peer activities vary from exercise and swimming to kitchen and Work Activities Programs (WAP).
Justification for using a cerebral palsy peer activities program stands in the research on learning with cerebral palsy. Children with disabilities need smaller ratios for learning than children without disabilities, and one-on-one instruction increases academic learning time. It has been found in cerebral palsy peer activities programs that a student who has the opportunity to teach skills learns the skills better, increases leadership experience, and stimulates socialization among peers. Cooperative learning experiences promote more interpersonal attraction between students with and without disabilities, higher self-esteem, and greater empathy on the part of all children.
The most important reason, of course, is that cerebral palsy peer activities allow for individualized instruction. Cerebral palsy peer activities give students with disabilities time in class to work on developmental skills vital to their involvement in physical activity in the future. Peer tutoring provides a situation in which the child with a disability receives instruction, increased practice, increased reinforcement, and continuous feedback on progress by the tutor on a one-to-one basis. Peer tutoring is an appropriate, effective way to set up meaningful practice with the opportunity for high rates of motor-appropriate practice. The simple implementation of a trained peer tutor can improve the level of skill for the student with a disability. When students are inconsistent or do not perform skills correctly, not only do they fail to appropriately learn the skills but they also may actually learn them incorrectly. Besides its high success rate, cerebral palsy peer activities are appealing because they are an inexpensive way to help students with disabilities succeed in socializing and general physical education class.