Creating effective, empowered, and inclusive play in children with disabilities

Bhandari, Renu (2023). Creating effective, empowered, and inclusive play in children with disabilities. SHEJ: Disability Rehabilitation Research, 1(1) pp. 3–12.


Over the years the nature of play has changed for children. Most children now are shifting to isolated sedentary play and games using electronic tools and devices rather than intergenerational interaction (Sutton- Smith, 1997, Kline,2004). There is a serious decline in unsupervised free play of children over the years (Meire, 2007). While the changing trends in play influence all children, the children with disabilities are slightly more impacted by these trends due to the risk of play, accessibility, attitudinal barriers, and social supports around them. This article explores the complexities in defining disabilities in research and its impact on play for children. The two highly critiqued models of disability namely – the medical model and the social model and their link to play in disabled children are discussed. The importance of the social model in effective understanding and inclusion of disabled children in play in various settings is discussed. The Social model puts the onus on the society- schools, nurseries, early years settings, practitioners, peers, and parents to create opportunities of safe and meaningful play. It encourages all in society to include, enable and empower disabled children to participate, feel included and create meaningful play. The article highlights the key characteristics of effective play in disabled children as one which creates choice, enables control, allows manageable risk and above all is inclusive. Barriers to effective play at home, in built environment, in educational settings and in natural environment are highlighted. The article concludes by the role of society and people around the children with disabilities and their role in creating opportunities, enabling environment, and creating positives attitudes that makes play fun and facilitates explorative learning.

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