Play is much more than just fun for developing children. It is a vital ingredient in developing a healthy young adult. Engaging in play, sports and movement-based physical activities builds motor skills and enhances a child’s creativity, self-confidence and social skills.

The benefits of playful physical activity on cardio-respiratory fitness, strength and endurance hold true for all children including those with special needs. Through these activities, children learn to become self-reliant and competent to face day to day challenges.

In this scenario, children with special needs are often severely disadvantaged in benefiting from play. They face 3 primary challenges:


Very few opportunities for,

  • playing in socially inclusive groups
  • playing appropriate games suitable for their developmental challenges


  • There is an acute paucity of a safe and supportive environment where parents of children with special needs can let the child offer the freedom to enjoy a play or outdoor activities.


  • Children with special needs require additional inputs to derive maximum benefit from play activity.

It is proven that participation in physical activities greatly enhance the benefits of therapeutic interventions such as occupational, speech and physical therapy that children with special needs require to mitigate their developmental challenges. Professionally planned and supervised play activity is indeed the secret input for accelerated benefit accrual.

In India, children with special needs face many hurdles to engage in gainful play. Adequately trained, empathetic teachers, trainers and coaches are one of them. Coaches and trainers seldom have adequate knowledge and training to,

  • recognize every special child’s strengths
  • identify their developmental challenges
  • help the children reach their maximum potential
  • create a socially inclusive environment

Therefore, devising a training program to train a cadre of professionals who, through play, can maximize the potential of children with special needs is the key.


PlayPal India’s vision is an inclusive society, with access to play for all children with special needs.


PlayPal India’s mission is that every child with special needs has access to play and movement-based learning supported by trained, empathetic and motivated coach.



Managing Trustee & President


Occupational Therapist
Training Director and Faculty Lead


Faculty & Head of Outreach


Faculty & Head of Clinical Assignment


Programme Co-ordinator


Clinical Partner









The President of Setco Foundation, Ms. Urja Shah is the philanthropic arm of Setco Group of companies. The Setco Foundation implements the Setco Group’s corporate social responsibility initiatives.

Under Ms. Urja’s leadership, the Setco Foundation is today recognized as one of the key innovators in the field of integrated community health and childhood development. The foundation received “The Best Corporate Foundations” award on World CSR Day by the World CSR Congress. The Setco Foundation has also been featured in a book “ Small but Beautiful” on meaningful and innovative social change, published by the Ministry of Industries, Gujarat.

Ms. Urja holds an M.A. in Environmental Economics and Policy from Duke University, Nicholas School of Environment, along with a Certificate in International Development Policy from Duke University, The Sanford Institute of Public Policy (Year 2000). She also holds B.S. in Environmental Science, Toxicology and Chemistry, summa cum laude, from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (Year 1998).

Ms. Urja lives in Mumbai, India with her husband, Harshal Shah, and their son, Hrehan. Together they enjoy scuba-diving, judo, designing, traveling, hiking, watching movies, music and spending time as a family.

A Paediatric Occupational Therapist by profession, Dr. Anjali Joshi, post her career as an associate professor at the O. T. School and Center at the K. E. M. Hospital in Mumbai, was the Director of Occupational Therapy and Training at Ummeed Child Development Centre, Mumbai. At Ummeed, she developed the training modules for the unique one year “Child Development Aide” training programme in which community workers are trained to monitor early child development and provide support to families of children with special needs.

Over the years, Dr. Joshi has conducted over eighty workshops and training programs all over India and abroad for registered regional and national professional bodies and forums and for parents of children with special needs on occupational therapy intervention. In this year alone, she was invited by the All India Occupational Therapists Association and the Nagpur Branch of Occupational Therapists, the Kuwait Ministry of Health, and the Manipal University of Allied Health to name a few.

Dr. Joshi has received much recognition for her work. In 1994, Dr. Joshi received the International Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship to study at the University of South California where she was trained in sensory integration techniques. In 2012, she was invited as an expert by UNICEF, India, to work on developing a screening tool for early childhood development. In 2013, she received the SPANDAN award from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and National Trust India in the category of ‘The best professional to have worked with individuals with disabilities’. In June 2014, she was elected on the Board of National Trust of India, a statutory body under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment Government of India which was set up under the National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities” Act (Act 44 of 1999).

Dr. Joshi has authored many research papers and books and she is very often a guest speaker, panelist and keynote speaker at professional workshops and conferences and television programs across India. Presently, she is an expert advisor and trainer for Muskan Foundation in Mumbai and Association for Welfare of Mentally Handicapped Persons in Maharashtra.

An Occupational Therapist, Dr. Hemal Parikh is the founder of Enliven Therapy Centre which comprises of a multi-disciplinary team of specialists in Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech and Language Therapy, Counselling and Remediation, and Autism Intervention Therapy, for children and adults. In addition to her Bachelor of Sciences degree in Occupational Therapy, Dr. Hemal has been certified in Cortico subcortical rehabilitation, Neuro-Developmental therapy (U.S.A.), Sensory Integration (University of Southern California, U.S.A.), and recently in Therapeutic Listening.

Before founding the Enliven Therapy Centre, she worked as a Senior Occupational Therapist with the S.P. J. Sadhana School and with Dr. Vrajesh Udani at the Child Development Clinic at the Hinduja Hospital. She was a Consulting Occupational Therapist at the ADI School for Children with Autism at the Nair Hospital, and is presently offering her consultancy services at the Gilder School for the Developmentally Handicapped, Kshitij Sheltered Workshop and Vocational Centre, VConnect Foundation for the Hearing Impaired and EAR. She has also co-authored a research paper for the NDTA Network entitled “NDT and Autism”.

Dr. Parikh’s passion lies in helping children and adults with special needs, and adults with neurological dysfunctions. Her goal is to ensure that children and adults alike are able to cope and overcome their functional problems and add life to their years.

An Occupational Therapist and the founder of Little Joys - Excellence Every Day Every Way, Dr. Saadiyah Merchant works with families on a range of developmental disabilities involving client evaluation, treatment planning, one on one and group intervention for children with special needs. She is also the co-founder of TreeOfHappyness (TOH) which is a social network platform dedicated to bridge the gap between professional services and the Special Needs and Differently-abled communities.

Prior to her work as a private clinical practitioner, Dr. Saadiyah was the Head of the Early Intervention Centre (EIC) at Ummeed Child Development Center in Mumbai. The EIC is a specialized, group therapy program for children with special needs between the ages of 2 and 5 years and Dr. Merchant planned and implemented a curriculum for these children based on their functional abilities in addition to supervising the EIC team members. Dr. Saadiyah is a lecturer and has several additional certifications to her medical degree which include “Handwriting Without Tears”, “PEERS Social Skills training program for teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder” and “Oral Motor/Oral Sensory Issues in Children- An NDT Perspective”.

Dr. Saadiyah also offers consultation services to children from various parts of India including Gujarat, Coimbatore, Bangalore and Rajasthan and also to children from China and Middle East where professional resources are scarce. Given the dearth of skilled special needs and shadow teachers, Dr. Saadiyah is extremely keen on strengthening the skills of teachers and parents who work with special needs children.

After completing her degree in computer application and working for a multinational company, Ms. Shilpa Benedict decided to make shift to the field of social work as she was keen to work for the welfare of others, especially women and children.

She completed her Master's Degree in Social Work with a specialization in children and families from the prestigious Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. At TISS, she excelled in her community projects and has shown great dedication to make a change in the society particularly in the fields of child sexual abuse and gender. She has worked for many organisations related to children.

The Director of Services at TheraPlay, a multi-disciplinary pediatric clinic in Mumbai, Dr. Khyati Dharia has received a Bachelor’s Degree in Occupational Therapy from G.S.M.C and K.E.M.H. (Mumbai). In addition to her degree, she has been certified in Sensory Integration from the University of Southern California (U.S.A.) and also in the Bobath Concept from the Bobath Child Center in the United Kingdom.

Over the years, Dr. Khyati has been working closely with schools and health care professionals to provide family-centered services. Prior to being the Director of Services at TheraPlay, she was an occupational therapist at the S.P. J Sadhana School. She was also a consultant for the Paediatric Therapy Network in Los Angeles in the fall of 2007. She is presently a consultant for the Let’s Talk Clinic and the Paediatrics NDTC and Research Centre. Dr. Khyati is a member of the All India Occupational Therapists Association and the Maharashtra State OT/PT Council.

Her aim is to make a difference in the lives of all those she serves by using the latest techniques available from research and continued education in the field of Occupational Therapy.

An occupational therapist and gold medalist in the field, Dr. Shriharsh Jahagirdar is presently the Assistant Professor at the O. T. School and Centre at the T. N. Medical College and the B. Y. L. Nair Charitable Hospital, Mumbai Central. He also serves as an honorary consultant for the Institute of Psychological Health, Kelshikar O.T. P.T. Rehabilitation Centre and Swayam Rehabilitation Centre, all located in Thane. He is a member of the All India Occupational Therapists’ Association (AIOTA) and is presently an executive member of the Mumbai Branch of AIOTA branch.

Dr. Shriharsh has also written several research papers published in the Indian Journal of Occupational Therapy. His international publication “Together we can!” Working with family and caregivers of children with a developmental disability was published in the World Federation of Occupational therapists’ bulletin. In the book publication called Occupational Therapy: Changing quality of life in children with special needs, Dr. Shriharsh has contributed by writing a chapter on “A guide to home-based rehabilitation for children with cerebral palsy.”

Dr. Shriharsh has been a part of several training programmes, conferences, workshops and camps, and is also a resource person and trainer empowering parents and teachers of children with special needs. He has also been a guest speaker on television shows like “Swastha Bharat” on Sahayadri TV and “Career Mantra” on Star Maza.


After completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Therapy in Mumbai at the Seth G.S. Medical College and K.E.M. Hospital in Mumbai, Ms. Priyanka Talreja, went on further to secure a Master’s Degree in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (Musculoskeletal Physical Therapy) at the University of Pittsburgh, USA. As part of her master’s degree, she has been trained in Falls and Balance Dysfunction: PT Management and Intervention and Evidence Based practice Clinical Considerations for The Spine, Lower extremity and Upper extremity.

Ms. Priyanka has attended numerous workshops and has volunteered for the Paraplegic Foundation at Sion Hospital, the National Paraplegic Games and the Standard Chartered Marathon as a part of the Asian Heart Institute. She is also currently associated with Alchemy for physiotherapy and rehabilitation.

The President of Forum for Autism, a parent support group, Ms. Parul Kumtha is also a counsellor at Ummeed Child Development Centre and Adult Support Kendra.

She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture (with Honours) from the University of Mumbai. She has diversified her qualifications by studying Conservation of Biodiversity from the Bombay Natural History Society and Built Heritage Conservation Studies with the Mumbai Metropolitan Region-Heritage Conservation Society.

If there is anyone in Mumbai who is a stalwart in the advocacy for special needs, it is Parul. She comes with strong experience in advocacy, parent and family support and school outreach.