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Diverse Effects of Role Play to everyone especially to Special Needs Children

Hatching center promote ‘play’ as the basis of learning that encompasses methods or intervention that are different from other main intervention for Special Needs children and teenagers.

Role play and pretend play are parts of play therapy that are able to greatly help to improve a few areas such as communication and interactions. Based on numerous studies, role play can encourage and cultivate a person's ability to express and read their own and others emotions, resolving social problems in different social situations, understanding others’ perspectives and greatly helps to combat anxiety or fear with social situations.

Why does it work? – The answer is ‘rehearsal’.

Role play and pretend play is a rehearsal or practice that can helps anyone to rehearse any situations or settings that they want to without any limitations. For example, cooking food in the kitchen, tea party with friends, going to the bookstore or even buying food. The great thing about it is that, it doesn’t limit your creativity and develops your adaptability and communication skills in various situations.

Thus, role play is greatly beneficial for children from young age to adults, with or without special needs. For special needs people, it assists them in preparing to communicate, facing their fears, mixing with the society and hopefully creates their independence. Moreover, some also develop other skills such as imitating and reading body language, proper tone of voice and dealing with emotions. The next chapter will elaborate more on the benefits of role playing in Special Needs Education.


- Flexibility

Role playing in the classroom (or at home) offers a great amount of flexibility as the only thing holding them back is your imagination! Students can play any roles or settings they want to experience depending on the resources available to them. It expands their imagination and gives them lots of different scenarios that they can imitate. They can be a cashier one day, a customer or even a mechanic as long as they have the resources to aid them in their role play.

- Imitating real life situations

One key benefit of role play is that it can Imitate real life situations that the students may find themselves in regularly, such as ordering food outside, going to the shopping mall, preparing food will help them to experience and make sense of these situations. Rehearsing will help to even develop and resist their anxiety or awkwardness when experiencing it in the real situation.

- Listening skills

As one of the purposes of roleplaying is to respond to what is being said by the other role player this requires them to listen to intently before giving their own reply, for this to happen students must be focused throughout (with a prompt when needed).

- Conversational skills

Knowing when to take turns in their conversation is a very important and transferable skill in real life, this will minimize conversational disruptions and allow them to maintain conversation for longer in their day to day lives.

- Sequential skills

Due to the nature of role play , practicing and then following a sequence is key to the correct incorporation of the skills. Following these precise sequences will help the students to order their thoughts and improve on their ability to follow multi-step instructions.

- Develops and expanding the vocabularies and language

With some carefully selected words and repetition of those words whilst enacting the scenario the students will have a greater chance of memorizing those words and in time using these during their everyday conversations.

- Teaches empathy

Role play can develop an understanding of their ‘characters’ perspective. The students will take on a variety of roles and as such they will naturally have a greater understanding of what it is like to be in those roles and can thus relate to people who work in those particular professions in real life when encountering them.

- Incorporates different skills

As mentioned previously due to the flexibility of the scenarios that can be played out this also means that additional skills can be brought forward, skills such as mathematics of their role play a cashier as they will have to work out the prices for the items being bought. If they are a mechanic for example then comprehension could also be integral, if the customer comes to the mechanic with a particular problem then the student will have to identify what can help that particular problem (with resources and pre-teaching) other skills that can be developed are token economy, phone skills, office skills such as printing, general life skills and more.



There are few main parts to role playing:



A situation that can be related to one’s natural environment such as in the kitchen, bedroom, living room, at the school or others. It can also be at a place that involves various types of real life occupations or work that can help to prepare them in the future. For example working at a restaurant, taking orders from customers, buying groceries, etc.


Create main roles and supporting roles. Don’t put too many different kinds of roles unless it is suitable for everyone. Start from simple roles and more complex roles and by times when everyone is accustomed with the process. It will help to create creativity and language acquisition.


Prepare a simple script that can help to steer or guide the communication and the flow of the role play. Resources such as materials that can be used during the role play will give a lot of benefit and experiencing with the real objects helps to stimulate and helps to memorize the items when they encounter it in real life situations. For example, a calculator, cashier machine, phone, and more.


Model means that you act out the role play with another person to the student so they can see and understand the script and the flow while slowly bringing them into the role. Starts slow and follows the student pace. Practice the role a few times and change their roles so that they can learn the differences between each role. Practice makes perfect. Support them during the role play and don’t force them into the roles too fast or perfectly.



The video below demonstrates by applying the guide above. It is important to remember that you don’t have to pressure yourself or the children to follow the script as much and follow the flow.

The 2 video clips will be on different levels which are lower, intermediate and higher level which refers to their capabilities and communication skills level. The first video will focus on the Stage 2 - Intermediate level and another video is Stage 3. You can observe the notable differences from each and the teacher also summarizes the objective and differences between each stages.

Each video will have the same setting but different goals and objectives for each role from simpler to more complex.






Prepared and written by: Izzat Farihin & Matthew James

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Hatching Center Homeschool and Intervention centre, Autism, Special needs kuala lumpur
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