Swati Shares Easy DIY Play-Based Learning Ideas For Her Special Needs Daughter

Austin-based Swati has made a lot of innovations in Early Childhood Education-related activities to homeschool her special-needs daughter, Kyra.



This one is a collection of beautiful thoughts by a parent of a special-needs child. Austin-based Swati Mittal is a Dentist by profession and currently, a happy stay-at-home parent looking after her 5-year-old daughter, Kyra, who has Cerebral Palsy & Epilepsy. This major life-decision of going on a sabbatical implies only one thing for Swati – to approach her daughter's learning process with unconditional love and support paired with a lot of innovations in Early Childhood Education-related activities! Wanting to utilize the time in hand, she has successfully managed to win Kyra’s (and our!) attention with unique games and craft activities that can be enjoyed at home.

If you're an educator or a parent, you don't want to miss our interview with this marvellous mother and discover some interesting home-based play-exercises for children. Excerpts below:

Take us back to the memory when Kyra was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy.

Kyra was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, which is brain damage, due to the stroke she experienced at 13 months of age. Later, she was diagnosed with Epilepsy at 4. Doctors predicted that she might walk with aids, or not walk at all. I was devastated. I had to learn a lot and that too, very fast. I had to come out of the darkness and be there for her, with very little time to grieve the loss. When others cheered their kids for walking, I was cheering because she was trying to walk, and when others were sleeping peacefully at night, I was watching my daughter so she wouldn’t have a seizure alone. Even my breaks were filled with a constant search on the internet on ways to help my daughter. Today, she walks without any aid, jumps and does whatever she was told she couldn’t. When you become a parent to a special-needs child, you become this fierce and powerful energy that your child needs you to be. You fight for services, push for appointments, learn all the jargons, and make sure there isn’t any stone that’s left unturned.


What kinds of activities have you innovated as a part of her physical therapy?

I focus on making physical therapy fun and functional for Kyra. I always make up stories to go along so that she isn’t bored and it always is a great motivator for her. In one of the activities, for example, I joined two chairs using a Hula Hoop. She was asked to get inside that space and then come out of it by lifting her one leg and balancing the rest of the body. In the video, you can see her struggle as she lifts her foot, which ultimately helps her become stronger. One can make the act more interesting by adding in puzzles and another obstacle. Of course, every such activity is followed by a lot of happy-dance in the end.

What possible changes do you wish to make in her curriculum once she begins attending the school?


She is supposed to start kindergarten this year and only then we will talk about Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or 504 Plans depending on the areas she struggles the most with. (The 504 Plan is a plan developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives accommodations that will ensure their academic success and access to the learning environment.)

We love how Kyra enjoys meditation with you. Please share some tips on how parents and educators can promote it among kids.

I’m teaching Kyra meditation so she develops a healthy mind and soul. With this, she’ll also learn the art of concentration from a tender age. 

I think exposing kids to such practices from an early age is a good idea. That age could be 3 years for some kids or more for others. Kyra started when she turned 4. I picked up a calming song that was hard to sing and be a distraction. I asked her to focus on that song. By the end of the year, she could do it for more than 4 minutes. We are now working on Silent Meditation, wherein she focuses on just herself. For Kyra, I am using a visual of pixie-dust falling on her each part of the body.

Talk about your most favourite DIY prop that you usually use while homeschooling your daughter.


It has to be the whiteboard with dry-erase pens. I sometimes hang a white sheet on it and ask her to use a fork to paint on it.

Apart from this, we indulge in some DIY activities to come up with interesting props. Recently, we made a simple catapult from ice-cream sticks and rubber bands.

We actually enjoy turning discarded items into useful learning tools, like in this case when we made a Marble Maze using paper towel roll and paper plates. I put 2 marbles at a time to make it challenging for Kyra. Watch it here.



Do you use any educational App(s) for Kyra?

Not yet. She doesn’t get enough screen-time.

What should one keep in mind while enrolling children with special-needs into extracurricular activities?

While enrolling Kyra in extracurricular activities, my main focus is always on inclusion. How inclusive the staff is and how quickly they can adapt or change according to Kyra’s need – are a few points I strongly consider. However, with this, our options get limited.

What have been your learnings so far as a special-needs mother?


I have learned to always be prepared for the worst while hoping for the best for my child. We live life to the fullest knowing how unpredictable it can be. We practice gratitude and make sure every moment of good health is celebrated.

What, according to you, are the Dos and Don’ts of being a special-needs parent? 

One must have faith in the therapy of their child and be patient in order to witness the results. Also, enjoy each milestone and celebrate with love. On the other hand, comparing your child with others (special needs or not) is a big No-No.

What’s been the most bizarre question you’ve ever been asked by fellow parents?

That what did I do wrong during my pregnancy to cause my daughter’s condition.


Now that Kyra cannot go out of the house during the lockdown, what other entertaining ideas have you come up with to keep her busy, entertained and learning?

I have been doing a lot of fine-motor crafts and trying to keep up with therapies, as well as fun. Let me share a couple of examples. You can use empty shoeboxes to make a fun wrestling match. All you’ve to do is put disposable cups on it and the contenders start tapping on the box to make the cups fall down. Whoever's cup falls down first, looses.

Another activity is making a Bubble Snake. This activity requires a lot of blowing and working the muscles. The better your child blows, the bigger the snake gets. To make it, take a plastic bottle and cut it from the bottom. Cover it with a wet sock fully dipped in soap water. Now fix the sock with a rubber band. Ask the child to start blowing from the other side (the open mouth of the bottle) and see the bubble-snake emerging bigger in size!


ScooNews is super impressed by Swati’s innovative skills. If this isn’t parenting-done-right, we don’t know what is! She signs off by saying that nothing seems complicated when you see the child is learning with the help of such play-activities. We agree when Swati says that these therapy-ideas go a long way even for children with no special needs at all. Tell us in the comments section how you like her ideas!

(All the images used here belong to Ms Swati Mittal)


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