Inclusion, Play and Empathy: Neuroaffective
Development in Children’s Groups
Susan Hart (Ed.), Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London and Philadelphia, 2016
ISBN 9781785920066, PB, 352 pages
Inclusion, Play and Empathy explores how professionals in preschools and schools can
assist children to develop socially and emotionally and increase self-esteem and conﬁ-
dence. Whilst the book focuses upon preschools and schools, the approaches, theory,
and case examples have clinical relevance for professionals across many settings who
work with children.
The publication brings together a wealth of experience from music therapists, early
childhood educators, psychotherapists, psychologists, and occupational therapists who
share their insight and knowledge of working with children, aged 4–12 years. The
book is edited by Susan Hart, a specialist and supervisor in psychology and
In the Introduction, Hart reports that society prioritises children’s learning, partic-
ularly regarding cognitive competencies, such as maths and literacy, to prepare them
for the workplace. The emphasis is placed upon individual growth. However, human
development relies equally upon the ability to engage and interact in communities.
This requires skills in empathy, cooperation, and cohesion. Hart states that cognitive
skills can be developed through study. However, she then questions: ‘What happens
to children who have been unable to develop basic social and emotional skills, or who
feel inadequate, have poor self-esteem or are unable to interact with others?’ (p. 12).
Hart reports that the development of social and emotional skills is driven by stim-
ulation. This takes place in the context of relationships, initially with attachment ﬁg-
ures. As children grow, teachers in preschools and schools play a key role in
supporting children’s development. Teachers are required to balance the needs of
individual children along with the needs of the group, which is often a difﬁcult task.
In Chapter 3, ‘Should school be a place for fun and games?,’ Hart considers how
teachers can use children’s enthusiasm for play to promote learning, social skills, and
emotional development. She suggests that play can provide a safe space for children
to explore, test boundaries, and learn new skills (p. 82). Hart explores how play can
be used to support the social and emotional development of children who have expe-
rienced disrupted patterns of attachment.
Inclusion, Play and Empathy provides a range of approaches to support individual
children and groups to develop skills that assist inclusion, self-care, and emotional regu-
lation. In Chapter 5, Phyllis Rubin and Marlo Winstead discuss Group Theraplay, an
adult-led, relationship-based approach to working with children. The chapter provides
an overview of the Group Theraplay framework and provides two case examples of using
this approach with children who were struggling to engage in a class setting.
A particular strength of the book is the use of case examples, which connects the-
ory to practice. Case studies explore how teachers can assist children who have
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy 2018, 39, 127–128
ª 2018 Australian Association of Family Therapy