Participant Info

First Name*
Middle Initials
Last Name*
Role in the Network*
WG-member, Management Committee Member
Scientific Area
play and early childhood
Year of PhD Award
Name of organisation*
University College Cork
Area of Work*
Helen’s research interests are in occupational science as it relates to child development, environments and play, and in occupation-based practice in services for children. Her PhD research explored indoor and outdoor learning environments in children under 2 years, with special focus on children's use of objects and spaces for play within the home. The purpose of the study was to develop specific evidence on the role of the environment in supporting child development which has application to children with disabilities. The study drew from a Universal Approach to children’s environments, which supports the philosophy of inclusion for all. Helen’s master’s research involved time-diaries to record typical daily play activities of Cork children aged between 5 and 8 years of age. The purpose of the study was to explore routines and patterns of play activities so that play-based interventions for children with disabilities would be informed by contextually relevant evidence. Currently she is exploring children's participation in physical activity play in relation to development, learning and well-being. She is involved in working with the heritage Council of Ireland to research outdoor play and nature, and the inclusion of children in designing outdoor playspaces.
Expertise Contributions*
My work asan occupational therapist, alongside my research as an occupational scientist both contribute to the scientific study of play. For example, I have been involved in continuous professional development for therapist who work with children with disabilities for the last 15 years alongside working in the field (from 1983 to 2003). I have also been instrumental in developing children’s therapy services locally, with a focus on play-based practice in natural learning environments. Part of that role included setting up Toy Libraries with technologies for play, and an advisory service for adapting environments for play. These projects demonstrate how as a clinician I was involved in the application of research evidence from international studies. Furthermore, I have been involved in the Early Childhood sector through my PhD Studentship and have a strong overview of the interdisciplinary nature of play in children from this experience, and of the challenges in bringing this varied and complex body of knowledge together from both a researcher and practitioners perspective. Children are at risk from play deprivation. My hope is to work together to fight for the right to play for all children.