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Enabling Play: Assistive Technology and Learning Through Play

Enabling Play: Assistive Technology and Learning Through Play

20th December 2017

Enabling Play: Assistive Technology and Learning Through Play

A Lord's Committee Room abuzz with assistive technology toys and games! The APPGAT held its autumn meeting to celebrate the power of technology to enable play for disabled children.  

Shadow Children's Minister Emma Lewell-Buck joined a meeting of the APPGAT and spoke passionately on the value of learning through play. The meeting began with an exhibit of assistive technology (AT) toys and games, and attendees and speakers tried out the technology for themselves. The group then saw a video that showed how children play and learn with AT at Kingfisher Special School, Sight Support Oldham, and Pendle View Primary. Having seen the issues brought to life with the toys exhibit and video, the group then heard from the Shadow Minister and a panel of experts from across the AT and play sectors.

  • Karen Rodrigues-Ayers, Coordinator of KIDS Home Learning and Stay and Play Services
  • Carol Allen, Education Advisor on ICT and Inclusion
  • Marianne Mannello, Director of Policy for PlayWales
  • Matthew Dodd, Principal Officer for Early Years Policy, Council for Disabled Children 
  • Emma Lewell-Buck MP, Shadow Minister for Children and Families

The Panelists discussed the value of assistive technology for play, the barriers to accessing the technology in Early Years, and how we can shape policy to give all children the opportunity to play. A key theme was the power of assistive technology to enable play for learning and development: as the Shadow Minister put it

Play is not an add-on to education; it is an essential part of it

At the same time, all the speakers emphasised the intrinsic value of play, as an expression of independence and choice, a chance to take up a challenge, communicate with peers - and even cheat! Yet discussion from the speakers and attendees showed that many children lack the opportunity to use assistive technology before they start school. And, as well as toys and games, children and parents need support to find ways of playing that suit their needs - as the APPGAT also heard at its previous meeting, provision of technology must be embedded within the user’s network of support. The group heard powerful recommendations to remove barriers to play. These included adopting the play sufficiency model that has seen success in Wales, creating an SEND budget within each early years setting, supporting networking among home visiting services to share awareness of assistive technology, and working with schools and libraries to provide assistive technology in play settings. After a vibrant discussion among the entire room, Emma Lewell-Buck MP ended proceedings with a call for further action 

for all those children who are out there who are benefiting from the work that this APPG does, I want to say thank you very much... please do all you can to ensure that all of our children have not just the right to good education and equal life chances but they also have a hell of a lot of fun through their journey in play

The APPGAT will take this message to its agenda-setting meeting in December, and will brief Parliamentarians on the key findings and recommendations from the event.