Local Non-Profit Director Champions Play for Children with Disabilities in Italy
Director at the National Lekotek Center is keynote speaker for European conference on special needs education
Aosta, Italy (January 18, 2016)—Jean Bailey, Director at the National Lekotek Center, was one of 3 keynote speakers during a January conference—COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) Action LUDI—aimed at the creation of novel and autonomous field of research and intervention on play for children with disabilities in Europe.
Taken from the conference’s literature, “The purpose of the COST Action LUDI is to create general awareness on the quality of life of children with disabilities, starting from a crucial aspect, i.e. play activities, and initiating a process of cultural and social change that will break down the barriers that hinder the full exercise of their right to play and the realization of a true social inclusion.”
LUDI is a fitting name for the conference because the name is a play on the word “ludic” which means spontaneous and undirected play.
Bailey’s presentation focused on the Lekotek model, and how the nonprofit’s focus and structure can be applied to help children with disabilities and their families. The speech touched on topics ranging from Lekotek’s focus on child-led play sessions, to the levels of service, and even to the various knowledge bases Lekotek pulls from. Across the speech, the ultimate point emphasized is just how effectively toys can increase inclusion and impact children’s motivations to reach milestones and develop through play.
“At Lekotek, we focus on toys as the tools to help children of all abilities,” said Bailey. “Toys also provide a tangible way to showcase what play can do for a child. When you elevate the value of toys, you automatically elevate the value of play.”
In addition to Bailey’s expertise on play, other speakers at the conference focused on fields including disability studies, social inclusion, and current research on play.
This diverse range of attendees was intentional, as one of the goals of the conference is to unite the various disciplines together. By combining the different areas of expertise, COST hopes to promote the understanding how important play is for children with special needs, an area that they call a “not yet recognized area of research.”
The COST LUDI conference took place in the town of Aosta, Italy on January 18 & 19, 2016. There were approximately 70 attendees over the two days of the conference. The conference was structured around various speaking sessions, professional working groups, and networking opportunities for members from diverse fields to exchange ideas and information.
The National Lekotek Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting play for children of all abilities. Lekotek believes play is the way kids learn, develop skills and reach milestones. The Lekotek mission is to make the world of play accessible to all children, especially those who have special needs. Lekotek has combined experience working with kids and families, child development expertise and knowledge of toys and play products to develop AblePlay—a national outreach to provide information and evaluations on the developmental potential of toys and play.
COST – European Cooperation in Science and Technology is an intergovernmental framework aimed at facilitating the collaboration and networking of scientists and researchers at European level. It was established in 1971 by 19 member countries and currently includes 35 member countries across Europe, and Israel as a cooperating state.
LUDI aims at the creation of a novel and autonomous field of research and intervention on play for children with disabilities. The network has three main objectives: a) collecting and systematizing all existing competence and skills: educational researches, clinical initiatives, know-how of resources centers and users' associations; b) developing new knowledge related to settings, tools and methodologies associated with the play of children with disabilities; c) disseminating the best practices emerging from the joint effort of researchers, practitioners and users. Play for children with disabilities is the object of a fragmented set of studies and it has given rise, in different countries and at different times, to niche projects (i.e. social robotics for autistic children, adapted toys for children with cognitive and motor disabilities, accessible playground areas). This theme is not yet a recognized area of research because of two main factors: a) disability represents a set of heterogeneous functioning frames; b) play is not leading the educational and rehabilitation contexts.