My News

Spring Update – June 2016

I’m enjoying working at Barnwood Trust and finding out about the impact of the great work they do in Gloucestershire. Recently, I’ve been made an occasional editor of Disability and Society, so I’m looking forward to doing some interesting reading! In July, I’ll be talking to some Portage workers in Somerset.The Sense play campaign has been great and I’m glad that play and playfulness seems to be getting a higher profile at the moment.

Winter Update – January 2016

I have just started a new job as a social researcher with the Barnwood Trust ( and am very excited by the prospect of doing some really interesting research in Gloucestershire communities. I may be taking on a new role but my passion for encouraging playfulness in children with PMLD has not diminished! My most recent publication can be found in the autumn edition of SLD Experience:

Autumn Update – October 2015

The Sense ‘Case for Play’ inquiry ( is now underway and I think it’s a great development, shedding light on a vital area. I’ve written a blog for their Play Campaign:

and was very pleased that they included my Play Passport in ‘The Case for Play’ report.

I’m still considering writing a book about my playfulness research and would be very pleased to have comments about whether this is something that you feel is needed and if so, what form it should take; a short, practical guide, a more detailed, academic book or….what? Please contact me via this website, I’d love to get your views! My most recent articles can be found on the Publications page and more will be appearing soon….

Lovely autumn day, with happy memories of my son’s recent wedding!

Summer Update – June 2015

I enjoyed presenting at the Nordic Network of Disability Research in Bergen, Norway in May and I’m pleased to be helping the charity, Sense, with their forthcoming Play campaign. A few more articles are in the pipeline and details will be on the ‘publications’ page soon. I’ve joined Twitter and although I’m still getting to grips with it, you can contact/follow me: @debby_watson1. I’ll be presenting at the ‘There is no them’ conference at UWE on July 7th, with a parent from my study and Helen Potter from Sense. It should be a really interesting event – you can find out more at:

Spring Update – March 2015

I’ve recently come across two really interesting projects, which may be of interest. The first is ‘Playing Out’ which encourages street play for children: and the second is an arts-based project, Arts Museum Learning which carried out a project called Held in Hand, using art objects in SEN settings:
These are both inspiring projects and I hope you enjoy reading about them!

Winter Update – February 2015

Life post-PhD continues to be busy. I’m writing an article, hopefully for the Children and Society journal, another article will be in the Winter edition of PMLD Link and I’m in the process of approaching a publisher to get the findings from my PhD to a wider audience. I’ve had an abstract accepted for a presentation at the Nordic Network of Disability Research conference in Bergen, so I’m very excited about going there in early May. Apart from that, a few cupboards are getting a long-awaited sort out!

The Routledge Companion to Severe, Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties will be coming out in April. It contains, amongst lots of really interesting and original work, a chapter on playfulness written by Margaret Corke and myself.

This book came about largely due to the enthusiasm and passion of Penny Lacey, who sadly died recently. It will be a fitting memorial to her. Penny was a very generous and wise supporter of my study and all things PMLD. She will be greatly missed by many people.

Christmas update

​​The viva is over! It was an interesting process, with hardly any of the questions I expected being asked but some thought-provoking challenges thrown my way. I have a few minor amendments to do, but I’m now looking forward to the graduation in February, when it might all seem real!

My intention now is to see if I can get a publisher to take it on. So, the writing isn’t over, but I’m intending to enjoy it. I’ve had a lot of nice feedback, so I’m hoping the study really will have some impact on making sure that playfulness gets taken seriously!

Happy Christmas! Debby

Autumn update


I’ve now submitted my thesis to the examiners and I’ve written a summary which can be found here . I’m keeping busy by making sensory books for the children in the study – see photo of work in progress above:

The books are now completed and a document can be found here about how and why I made them.

Summer Update

I’m pleased to say that I’ve sent my thesis to the printers and will be submitting it to the examiners next week! It’s been an enjoyable process on the whole and I’ll be posting a summary document on the website soon. For now, I’ve created a link to a poster which briefly sets out some of the findings. I’ll be presenting the poster at the South West Doctoral Training College conference at Bath University in November. Many thanks to everyone who has helped me to reach this stage!

Spring Update

I’m now writing the final chapter of my thesis, with a view to submitting in September. In time, I hope to put several new documents up on the website that may be of interest, but for now have uploaded the ‘Categories of playful activities for children with PLMD’ document.

These can be used alongside the observation schedule to determine a child’s level of active involvement in playfulness. There is also a document that provides some ideas for playful activities by category from the study. I have found a tentative association between active involvement in playful activities and the number of ‘strengths’ that a child with PMLD displays.

A ‘strength’ may be something like being able to anticipate something happening, demonstrate a sense of humour or having the ability to make a choice. It’s been a great privilege, by focusing on playfulness, to be able to look at so many positive aspects regarding children with PMLD and I look forward to sharing more soon.

Happy New Year!

January 2014

I’m looking forward to the year ahead and I hope that it brings many good things to you all. I’ve nearly completed the second chapter of my thesis and I’m enjoying pulling it all together at last. Later this month I’ll be sending out summaries of my findings to everyone who took part in the study and will be interested to hear what people have to say. Meanwhile, on with the writing!

Passport to play article

October 2013

An article I have written has been included in the latest (Summer 2013) edition of PMLD Link on pages 8-9. The article mentions the Passport to Play and I’m pleased to report that there will be exciting news posted here soon about a national charity ‘adopting’ the Passport! Meanwhile, that elusive first word of the thesis hasn’t quite been typed. I’ll be sending out a summary of my initial findings to all the participants soon, though, so I haven’t been slacking!

Examples of Playfulness

September 2013

‘I’ve now completed all the data collection for my study and am in the process of carrying out the analysis. As part of this, I’m writing a document which sets out many examples of playfulness and some ideas that I hope will be useful. It can be downloaded here ideas for playful activities by category. The summer has flown by and I shall soon be starting on my plan of writing a chapter a month – ambitious or realistic?!’


PMLD Link 25 years!

July 2013

PMLD Link have just celebrated 25 years of sharing good practice and ideas and I went to their conference in Birmingham on Friday (28.6.13). It was a great day and very interesting to hear about the development of the journal over the past quarter decade. Some things change, some don’t, but I think the consensus is that it’s mostly going in the right direction in terms of people with PMLD being more included, anyway!

Observation Tool July 2013

July 2013

I’ve just added a copy of the observation tool that I developed and have been using to observe the children in my study to the ‘downloadable resources’ section of this website. I only have one more observation to do – I’ll really miss spending time with the lovely families in my study! It’s all analysis and writing from now on…..

Click here for the Observation Tool.

Nordic Network of Disability Research conference

May 2013
I returned at the end of May from the Nordic Network of Disability Research conference in Finland. It was great to hear about all the really interesting research that is going on around the world and to have a chance to talk about my study. I particularly enjoyed hearing Eva Feder Kittay talk about her profoundly disabled daughter and what we might mean by a ‘good life’ for profoundly disabled people. I like her emphasis on ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ and how most people only see the struggles but there’s joy as well. Having observed the children in my study being playful, I would certainly agree with that!

Click here for Nordic Network of Disability Research conference website.