Staff profile - Karen Stagnitti

Prof Karen Stagnitti

Position: Associate Head Of School (Research)
Faculty or Division: Faculty of Health
Department: School of Health & Soc. Dev.
Campus: Geelong Waterfront Campus
Phone: +61 3 522 78363 +61 3 522 78363


Biography summary

Karen Stagnitti has worked for over 30 years in community based child and family early childhood intervention teams. She has been a staff member at Queensland University and Deakin University. In 2005 she joined the Occupational Science and Therapy team at Deakin University where she is now Professor, Personal Chair. She has been invited to present her work in Canada, UK, Denmark, Switzerland, Japan, Singapore, Croatia, Romania, Chile and Italy. She has over 80 papers published in peer reviewed journals, 20 book chapters and has written or edited five books.


  • Bachelor of Occupational Therapy, University of Queensland, 1977
  • Doctor of Philosophy, La Trobe University, 2002
  • Graduate Certificate of Higher Education, Deakin University, 2007


Australasian/Pacific Play Therapy Association

OT Australia

Victorian Consortium of Early Childhood Educators

Personal website


Teaching Interests

Prof Stagnitti coordinated the occupational therapy honours program for 10 years from 2005 to 2014. She is intersted in developing students research skills and abilities in the assessment and measurement of play in children. She is also interested in the application of knowledge to practice.

Subjects and units currently teaching

She is unit chair for the following units in the Master of Child Play Therapy:

HSO713 - Play Assessment and Meaurement

HSO714 - Research Project A

Teaches into a clinical intensive as needed from year to year

She also supervisors several PhD candidates and masters research students.

Knowledge areas

Professor Stagnitti specialises in children's play. She has developed 2 play assessments, the Symbolic and Imaginative Play Developmental Checklist and the Child-Initiated Pretend Play Assessment.

Conferences and seminars

1. Siobhan Casey, Karen Stagnitti, Ann Taket (2010) Examining resilience using the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health: Children and Youth Version AARE 2010, Melbourne University, Melbourne (28 November to 2 December 2010) AARE SIG: Social Justice, Session Type: Symposium. 2. Stagnitti, K. & Kidd, E. (2011). Narrative recall and pretend play: comparison of a play-based curriculum and traditional classroom curriculum. Children's Play, Storytelling and Pretence: CPSP 2011, University of Melbourne. 3. Stagnitti, K. (2011). Changes in ability: children with ASD and the Learn to Play program. Children's Play, Storytelling and Pretence: CPSP 2011, University of Melbourne. 4. Stagnitti, K. (2011). Play Based Learning. Monash City Council, Melbourne. 5. Stagnitti, K. (2011). The Parent Learn to Play Program. Healing relationships. Australasian/pacific Play Therapy Association Conference. August, Geelong. 6. Casey, S., Stagnitti, K. & Taket, A. (2011). Peer play relationships. Australasian/pacific Play Therapy Association Conference. August, Geelong. 7. Taket, A., Nolan, A., Casey, S. & Stagnitti, K. (2011). Supporting children's and young people's resilience in schools. 90minute paper presentation, New Understandings, Better Integration, Sustainable and Equitable Actions - Schools that Promote Health, Well-being and Educational Success in the Next Decade on the Occasion of the 15es Journes annuelles de sant publique du Qubec/15th Annual Public Health Days of Quebec (JASP) in Quebec - November 28th - 29th 2011. 8. Taket, A., Stagnitti, K., Casey, S. & Nolan, A. (2011). Mothers supportive strategies to build resilience in their children. PHAA (Public Health Association Australia) conference, Brisbane. 9. Hitch, D. Lavasani, N., Pepin, G. & Stagnitti, K. (2011). Clinical guidelines for children with ADHD. Bi-annual Occupational Therapy National conference, Gold Coast, June 2011. 10. Siobhan Casey, Karen Stagnitti, Ann Taket, Andrea Nolan (2012). Early Peer Play Interactions of Resilient Children Living in Disadvantaged Communities The Early Years Conference 2012, 2 4 February, Hyatt Regency, Vancouver, Canada


Awards and prizes

In 1997 she received a full time scholarship from LaTrobe University to study a doctorate full time.

In 2012 she was given a Personal Chair.


Research projects

Faculty member of the Research and Research Training Committee

Chair of the Research and Research Training Committee

Chair of the Animal Ethics Committee Laboratory

Research interests

Professor Stagnitti's research is primarily concerned with play ability of children under 10 years of age. The research area can be broken down into the following main areas:

The continuing development of a norm referenced play assessment: The Child-Initiated Pretend Play Assessment (ChIPPA)

The relationship between play and literacy ability in young children

The use of the ChIPPA with different clinical groups of children

The refinement of an intervention play therapy called 'Learn to Play'  that builds a child's play skills with increases in a child's language, social competence and flexibility.

Continuing research on the Parent Learn to Play program.

The Learn to Play program with children with ASD

The development of the Animated Movie Test - an assessment of creativity, logical thinking, symbolic thinking and narrative for adolescents.

The investigation of early play abiltiy in people with Anorexia Nervosa

Research page



Some selected publications

Stagnitti, K. & Cooper, R. (eds.). (2009). Play as Therapy: Assessment and Intervention. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Stagnitti, K. (2015). The use of psychometric play-based assessment to inform research-supported treatment of children with autism. In E. Green & A. C. Myrick (eds). Play therapy with vulnerable populations. No child forgotten. (pp. 141-162). Rowman & Littlefield: Lanham USA.
Stagnitti, K. (2014). The Parent Learn to Play program: building relationships through play. In E. Prendiville and J. Howard (eds). Play Therapy Today. (pp. 149-162). Routledge: London.
Nolan, A., Stagnitti, K., Taket, A., and Casey, S. A. (2014). Supporting resilience in the early years: Making a difference.  In: S. Garvis and D. & Pendergast (Eds) Health and Wellbeing in Childhood. (pp. 240-252). Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.
Goldingay, S., Stagnitti, K., Sheppard, L., McGillivray, J., McLean, B., Pepin, G. (2015). An intervention to improve social participation for adolescents with autism spectrum disorder: Pilot study. Developmental Neurorehabilitation, 18 (2), 122-130.
Stagnitti, K, & Lewis, F., M. (2015). The importance of the quality of preschool children’s pretend play ability to the subsequent development of semantic organisation and narrative re-telling skills in early primary school. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. 17(2), 148-158.
Dender, A. M., & Stagnitti, K. (2015). Children's play in the Australian Indigenous context: the need for a contemporary view, International Journal of Play, 4, 3-16. DOI: 10.1080/21594937.2014.977036
Stagnitti, K., Bailey, A., Hudspbeth-Stevenson, E., Reynolds, R., & Kidd, E. (first published 5th May 2015, early online). An investigation into the effect of play-based instruction on the development of play skills and oral language: A 6-month longitudinal study. Journal of Early Childhood Research
Smith, R., Stagnitti, K., Lewis, A., Pepin, G. (first published online 27th June 2015). The views of parents who experience intergenerational poverty on parenting and play: a qualitative analysis. Child: care health and development. DOI. 10.0000/cch.12268
Watts, T., Stagnitti, K., & Brown. T. (2014). Sensory processing and play: a systematic review. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68, 37-46.
Nolan, A., Taket, A. & Stagnitti, K. (2014). Supporting resilience in early years classrooms: the role of the teacher, Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, 20:5,595-608, DOI:10.1080/13540602.2014.937955
Fink, N., Stagnitti, K., Galvin, J. (2012). Pretend play of children with Acquired Brain Injury: an exploratory study. Developmental Neurorehabilitation, 15(5), 336-342.
Pepin, G., & Stagnitti, K. (2012). Come play with me. An argument to link ASD and Anorexia Nervosa through early childhood play. Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention, 20, 254-259.
Stagnitti, K., O’Connor, C., & Sheppard, L. (2012). The impact of the Learn to Play program on play, social competence and language for children aged 5-8 years who attend a special school. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 59 (4), 302-311.
Dender, A., & Stagnitti, K. (2011). The development of the Indigenous Child Initiated Pretend Play Assessment: selection of play materials and administration. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 58, 34-42.
Reynolds, E., Stagnitti, K. & Kidd, E. (2011). Play, language and social skills of children aged 4-6 years attending a play based curriculum school and a traditionally structured classroom curriculum school in low socio-economic areas.  Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 36 (4), 120-130.

Link to publications

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