Making a difference to children's lives

Holly Elias, MSc Play & Therapeutic Play graduate

Holly Gallan, a MSc Play and Therapeutic Play graduate, is a teaching assistant at a multi-cultural primary school.  

As a result of doing the postgraduate course, Holly's head teacher put her on training to become the school’s Emotional Literacy Support Assistant, working with vulnerable children and children who have experienced trauma. 

“The best part of my job is knowing that my input has empowered children to achieve beyond their expectations, not just academically but socially and emotionally.

As the school’s ELSA, I deliver individualised sessions to children. This involves developing a positive relationship with children before helping them work through any difficulties they have experienced. Many sessions include playing, playing games, talking, making craft items and completing therapeutic activities. 

During play times, I implement a school-wide playground buddies system. I also run a girls' club, a homework club and work on a 1:1 basis with a young boy with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Many children with whom I work with have missed out on play-based experiences at home due to lack of toys. This gave me the idea to set up a toy library at the school where children could borrow toys and take them home, just like they would a library book. 

The enjoyment these children have gained has been incredible. Teachers and other members of staff have also commented on how happy and ready to learn these children now are. 

I chose the postgraduate Play Therapy course as I had studied Psychology at degree level, and was interested in learning more about how to help children through difficult times.  I also wanted to improve my knowledge and increase my career possibilities, and I'm pleased to say it has done both.

One of the most valuable things I learnt on the course was about the development of a therapeutic relationship; this has helped me in general in my job, but particularly in my role as an ELSA.

I particularly enjoyed the practical sessions, where myself and a fellow student played the roles of the child and therapeutic worker. Although this was embarrassing at first it was very useful and important."