Maine LEND & UNE Transdisciplinary Playgroup

May 4, 2018

The Maine LEND Program supports the University of New England's (UNE) Transdisciplinary Playgroup in Portland, Maine. The University's playgroup continues to demonstrate success as it is in its ninth year. The Transdisciplinary Playgroup promotes a community-based model facilitating the development of children age eighteen to thirty-six months. This program is an inclusive model and welcomes children with and without disabilities to engage in play in a natural playgroup environment.

Students from occupational therapy, physical therapy, and social work programs collaborate to learn from the children and facilitate play within the group. Students and LEND trainees who engage in this program highly value the experience and educational opportunity. Seeing children of varying ability levels interact and play together in the natural environment of a playgroup is an extremely valuable opportunity. Not only do students and trainees find this experience meaningful, but parents continue to express their gratitude and appreciation of the playgroup experience. Parents start the playgroup session with their child in the play area. As the children become more comfortable in the playgroup setting, the parents transition out of the room and into a social-work led parent group. In this group, parents have the opportunity to talk about strengths and challenges of parenting and find support from one another; an experience they enjoy.

Over the course of the eight-week playgroup sessions, students, parents, and graduate students report observing positive impacts from the group including improved play skills, improved fine and gross motor skills, improved communication skills, and increased activity tolerance. The children grow and thrive together as they learn and play in a sensory-rich environment. Parents value their time spent in the parent group and the positive impacts they see within their children and often express a desire for more community playgroup models such as the one provided by UNE and Maine LEND program.

Due to the high level of success the Transdisciplinary Playgroup has seen over the past nine years, the Maine LEND team has been working to bring this model to the Northern Maine region, where children are often underserved and have fewer opportunities to engage in developmentally-based community activities with peers. The Maine LEND team hopes to bring this integrative model to promote supportive and enriching environments for children and interprofessional students to learn, play, and develop.