Doctors prescribe play days

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The Independent Online
CHILDREN with educational or behavioural problems will be prescribed trips to theme parks and play schemes by doctors under a pioneering scheme which starts this week, writes Lesley Gerard.

Experts behind the project in Lichfield, Staffordshire say that old-fashioned fun can alleviate many medical conditions suffered by problem youngsters.

Families eligible for the free sessions will be offered a range of leisure facilities, from mother and toddler groups to circus skills courses and days out at Drayton Manor amusement park. The scheme has been devised by Lichfield District Council. So far over 20 families have been referred, and it will eventually cater for 500. The project has already attracted backing from a number of educationalists across the country.

Sue Smith, Lichfield's assistant director of leisure services, said the scheme would target children with a range of problems from the hyperactive and those with special needs to the recently bereaved. It will also seek to identify parents, particularly mothers, suffering from stress and depression, who would be given vouchers to pay for the activities.

Ms Smith said: "It is not uncommon for a parent to visit their doctor suffering from stress or depression when the root cause is the behaviour of their child. We believe that interactive play for the child combining a social activity for the parent can work wonders for both.''