2 Exploring skills
The activity in this section focuses on the practice skills involved in work with children, their families and other practitioners – drawing on and consolidating the material that you may have read before studying this course. We will examine some of the different elements that can be argued are essential for practitioners to ‘connect with children’, and explore how good practice with children and families can be enhanced.
The first video clip in the activity introduces the voluntary organisation Plus, based in Stirling, Scotland, and the second clip gives you an opportunity to recognise some of the skills required by workers who work with disabled children.
Plus, in Stirling, is a voluntary organisation that works in a variety of ways with disabled children and young people. There is an introductory video clip that shows the context of this setting.
The second clip you will watch in this activity focuses on the interaction between Scott, and a playworker, Jenni, who are reading a story together during a summer play scheme. You will be asked to observe and discuss the skills within this interaction. You will probably need to watch the clip more than once.
As you watch the second clip, ‘Communication’:
Make a note of any skills that you think the worker is demonstrating.
Taking a critical approach, note what issues you think would need to be given careful consideration in this sort of interaction to achieve best practice with disabled children.
Think about the issues around practitioners and appropriate physical contact with children. How does the interaction here, in a very different setting, fit with your conclusions about what is appropriate?
Click play to watch the introductory video clip (8 minutes).
Transcript: Introductory video
Click play to watch the 'Communication' video clip (5 minutes).
Some examples of skills that were demonstrated by Jenni are:
Having been told that Scott likes to be out of his wheelchair and seated on the beanbags, she has been responsive to this information.
She demonstrates warmth in her tone and enables close physical proximity.
She engages with Scott, asking him questions as well as just reading the story. She also encourages him to help to turn the pages, displaying patience with his attempts.
She has the right communication skills to enable her to help Scott to use the computer-assisted communication system.
The video clips used in this course are not designed to illustrate ideal practice, and you may feel that there are other ways in which Jenni could have enabled communication or participation. We can't tell from this clip, for example, how much Scott was asked about how he likes to sit or read. This ‘checking out’ beforehand is obviously important, as well as the skill of being open to signals from children as they interact.
The ‘checking out’ should also include whether Scott is happy with physical contact. Disabled children can often feel that they have less control over their own bodies, and less privacy, than non-disabled children. How this is managed can be a skills issue too, as Activity 3 will demonstrate.
Briggs (2004) suggests that if children are dependent on aids (for example, a wheelchair for mobility), that these aids might be connected to body image and also need to be treated with respect.
School, for example, is a more formal environment where there has been a lot of focus on – and anxiety about – physical contact.
Here, the practitioner is in a very informal play situation that perhaps allows for a broader range of contact to be appropriate. Good practice principles still apply.
It is interesting to consider whether the relative ‘professional’ perspectives influence what we, or the workers, see as appropriate (the practitioners in the holiday scheme are paid but are not trained play workers). Also, as we will go on to discuss, disabled children may anyway require more physical contact from practitioners on a daily basis.