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Revolutionising Play Revolutionising Play


Revolutionising Play, Perspectives, Possibilities and Promise

Prof. Peter Gray (Boston College), Adam Harris (AsIAm) , Prof Eugene Wall (MIC), Dr. Emer Ring (MIC), Dr. Maja Haals Brosnan (Children’s Research Network), Dr David Kenefick (Children’s Research Network) and Dr. Lisha O’Sulllivan (MIC) pictured at the Revolutionising Play: Perspectives, Possibilities and Promise International Play Conference which was held in Mary Immaculate College on Saturday 15 Sept, and co-hosted by the Children’s Research Network. Picture: Brian Arthur

Revolutionising Play, Perspectives, Possibilities and Promise conference calls for all children to be given the opportunity to play

While attending the ‘Revolutionising Play, Perspectives, Possibilities and Promise’ conference in Mary Immaculate College (MIC) Limerick at the weekend, Adam Harris, CEO of AsIAm, called for all children to be given the opportunity to play. “Too often it is presumed people who think differently or indeed who play differently are uncreative or cannot benefit from playful opportunities. This conference has shown the centrality of play in the development of all children especially those who think or develop differently.”

The sold-out one day conference at MIC, co-hosted with the Children’s Research Network, was aimed at ensuring children are provided with enriched opportunities to play throughout their childhood through highlighting children’s right to play and educators’ responsibility in making play happen from early years right through to post-primary level.



Opening the conference Professor Eugene Wall, President of MIC, said he hoped the conference would “provide a springboard for continuing the discussion on the importance of play for all children and young people”.

Boston College’s Professor Peter Gray, a world-renowned expert on play and author of the blog Freedom to Learn for Psychology Today, presented the opening keynote address and convincingly answered the question: ‘What exactly is play and why is it such a powerful vehicle for learning’.

According to Professor Gray: “when children have adequate freedom and time to play, they play at all of the most basic skills that human beings everywhere must acquire – physical skills, emotional skills, constructive skills, creativity and logic.” He continued “The playful state of mind has been shown in many research studies to be the optimal state for insight, creativity, and learning anything new”.

Leading experts provided engaging presentations on outdoor play; play in the early years and primary curriculum; play promoting wellbeing, play in literature and the arts; the intersection between play and sport and the profound power of play. The conference also reinforced the significant potential of play for children’s well-being; cognitive; social-emotional and physical development and for children’s success in school and beyond.

Adam Harris, CEO of AsIAm, presented the afternoon keynote address on ‘Play I did it My Way’ and highlighted the importance of ensuring all children are included in and provided with enriched play opportunities to support their learning and development.

Speaking after the event, Dr. Emer Ring, Head of Department of Reflective Pedagogy and Early Childhood Studies at MIC, said: “importantly the conference has highlighted the possibilities and promise of play for all children and provided educators with guidance and direction in embedding play in children’s curricular experiences. Critically it has reminded us that we have to continue to seek answers to the question posed by Cat Stevens in his song  ‘Where do the Children Play’ and remain alert to the threats to children’s play in order to ensure that all children are afforded worthwhile and enriched opportunities to play from early childhood through primary school and beyond.”

Dr Lisha O’Sullivan Acting Head of Department of Reflective Pedagogy and Early Childhood Studies Reflective Pedagogy and Early Childhood Studies at MIC, added that “the conference had placed children’s right to play firmly back on the agenda and achieved its aim of prompting a ‘play revolution’, through exploring a wide range of perspectives and articulating both the possibilities and promise of play.”

Adam Harris was also on hand to launch the long-awaited Peter Lang publication ‘Autism from the Inside Out: A Handbook for Parents, Early Childhood, Primary, Post-Primary and Special School Settings’ co-edited by MIC’s Dr Emer Ring, Dr Patricia Daly and Professor Eugene Wall with contributions from experts in education and psychology at Mary Immaculate College.

Speaking about the publication Adam Harris said: “This book provides a practical, comprehensive overview of the strengths, challenges and support needs of autistic students. Its emphasis on the difference over disorder and strengths over weaknesses provides a refreshing and promising example of best practice. The launch of ‘Autism from the Inside Out’ marks an important moment in the education systems journey from mere main-streaming to meaningful inclusion. It is a fine example of the leadership of Mary Immaculate College, and the authors, in particular, continue to show in the field”.

The book is based on research conducted by academics at Mary Immaculate College, commissioned by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) and published in 2016.  It is the first book in Ireland focused on providing parents, early years, primary, post-primary and special school settings, with guidance, advice and effective strategies for supporting children with autism.  The book has informed the development of the award-winning Leadership for INClusion in the Early Years (LINC) Programme. All proceeds from the book, which can be purchased online, will be contributed to AsIAm, to support its outstanding work in supporting parents, schools, communities, and children with autism.

The conference was supported by ABC Start Right Limerick; AsIAm; the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO); Early Childhood Ireland (ECI); the Leadership for INClusion in the Early Years Programme; the National Childhood Network (NCN); Shannon Region Conference and Sports Bureau and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA).


To purchase the book, go here. 

For more stories similar to this, go here. 

Richard is a presenter, producer, songwriter and actor. He was named the Limerick Person of the Year (2011) and won an online award at the Metro Éireann Media and Multicultural Awards (2011) for promoting multi-culturalism online. Richard says that the concept is very much a community driven project that aims to document life in Limerick. So, that in 20 years time people can look back and remember the events that were making the headlines.