Working together for children: Stirling
Working together for children: Stirling

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Working together for children: Stirling

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.

Activity 2

1 hour 30 minutes

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’:

  1. Make a note of any skills that you think the worker is demonstrating.

  2. 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.

  3. 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).

Download this video clip.Video player: Introductory video
Skip transcript: Introductory video

Transcript: Introductory video

Paul Dumbleton – Chief Officer
Plus I’m sure everyone’s aware that there are a lot more constraints than we’re reading in the papers about the constraints on children just getting out and playing, but children with disabilities face so many obstacles to that and a lot of those are not physical obstacles, they’re to do with their vulnerabilities and their need for a bit more support or a bit more supervision than the average child of their age.
Plus is a voluntary organisation based here in Stirling, it was formed about 20 years ago now, nearly 20 years ago by a group of families who were very concerned that their children with disabilities were not able to get involved in ordinary local play activities, particularly at that time. They were concerned about the summer holidays and the fact that their children were stuck at home when others were being able to get involved in getting out and about and doing things with friends.
The parents managed to get a fair bit of support from the local authority to borrow a school and borrow a van and that sort of thing and it was such a success that they decided they wanted to carry on and, and do more than that. And since then, it’s grown into a number of different projects. Sadly a lot of children with disabilities don’t have close friends and that’s really the reason that Plus exists.
In schools we work by having a circles of support inclusion officer and her job is to go in and help children within the class, support the children with disabilities within that class. There’s a lot of talking about what the young person might need in terms of extra support. The ways that children might actually get involved in doing that and particularly in the kind of social support being visible sort of support that just having someone to play with in the playground.
It’s a strange area to be working in, cos we’re really working in, in the area of people’s social lives and social lives are private matters, but because they need support, children and in fact, other you know people with disabilities generally, their social lives become almost the objects of public policy.
Interviewer
… you going to school with?
Girl
We’re both going to school with … [INAUDIBLE]
Interviewer
What’s it called?
Girl
Wallshay??
Interviewer
What’s it like?
Girl
Big.
Big. Quite scary because … you go from like the oldest in the primary school to the youngest of the high school.
Interviewer
How do you feel about that feeling?
Girl
Scared and nervous ??.
Man
The other projects have been particularly aimed at seeing if we can overcome some of the barriers to them forming friendships.
The youth inclusion projects work with the organisations and ensure that they have the information they need, the support they need, the help they need. Occasionally they do need an extra pair of hands and we can provide staff support, but usually, within their own resources if they work at it, they actually can provide the additional support that children with disabilities need.
Woman
When we did our promise. Was that a happy time or was that a sad time?
What do you think?
Was that what they meant to say, was it?
No? You’re right, that was a really happy time wasn’t it? What a nice smile.
… best times wasn’t it, it was a fantastic time, I’m so proud that day.
Where’s the camping one? Point to it. Show us it. Right can you find it?
Girl
This was my one and only the croc badge.
Woman
I don’t know what this was before Oh that’s the one you did at camp, yes you did that, that’s a scientist’s one.
Girl
Scientist.
Woman
Yeh …
Girl
… and that was from croc, a croc, the croc badge. I tried to ride on ???, she said a loud no sound.
Woman
Ah ha.
Man
We still do the work that was started those years ago offering play opportunities to young people and so really what we’re giving children is a chance to be away from their families and families to have a break from, from caring for their children. And although families do love to spend time together, family members also like to spend time apart.
Woman
Angus has Asberger’s Syndrome and some loss of hearing.
Angus do you like coming to play park?
Angus
It’s just great fun, there’s lots to do and there’s nothing, there’s nothing boring here.
Woman
He enjoys like building and construction so he probably enjoy the junk modelling through there.
Angus
Yes, what do you like working (can’t hear over b/ground noise)…??
Man
I like working at Plus cos I know that I’m making a difference when I work here.
Angus
Yeh?
Woman
Do you go to dad’s work?
So what’s your favourite room to go into then? Would you like to play on the street? Would you like to play out on the street with all your friends?
Whereabouts
That one? Ahhh, which one?
Like to go to Gran’s house?
Man
I think children who need support to get involved in, in social activities are always going to be quite disadvantaged cos it means there’s always going to be an adult around. And when there’s an adult around, interactions between children are always going to be different to when there isn’t an adult around.
You’re intruding into a bit of life that for most people is private and so you need to do that in the most sensitive way, the way that respects people’s dignity, the best way you can.
Woman
Can you see them all? Can you see all the animals? There’s a badger and a fox and an owl.
Two strange animals appear in the moonlight but before she has time to answer … they’re all sitting up for the dog.
Right, turn the page.
Good boy.
She loves the night but has rarely been beyond the garden gates.
Are you going to turn the page again? Right. You got it? Right, right, going to turn it? Well done.
Man
What Plus has done to achieve for the children using the service is an ordinary social life and that’s, that’s belonging and a sense of belonging, really belonging not, not just being tacked onto a school to their local clubs and societies and so on.
I think children with disabilities actually end up under much more surveillance than, than other children and actually I think any of us, if we do a bit of reflection, it’s those, those spaces between adult supervision is where lots of, lots of really good growing up goes on. And children with disabilities really miss those sorts of spaces.
End transcript: Introductory video
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Introductory video
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Click play to watch the 'Communication' video clip (5 minutes).

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Transcript: Communication

Jenni
He’s not allowed E numbers like Iron Bru or Smarties or Skittles or anything, so just agreeing with him, just what I have whatever’s in his lunchbox.
There you go.
put you with Scott.
Scott’s been here the last two days. Scott has Cerebral Palsy. He loves like cars and trucks and all different vehicles. He’ll probably come with some ?? to play with as with. He loves like dipping his feet in the water, we did that yesterday. And getting his hands painted to make pictures with.
He also likes coming out of his chair, so if he wanted to come out of his chair and put one of these big splodges, then he’d like that too, sitting with ?? and things, so.
Yeh! You smell different, she says to Daisy. I’ve been in the park with the rabbits and the squirrels answers Daisy. What are rabbits and squirrels, asks Flo? Well, thinks Daisy aloud, a rabbit is like a giant mouse with very long ears and a squirrel is a short rat, with fluffy tail who lives up a tree.
Do you like squirrels? Yeh. Have you got them in your garden? No? I have them in my garden.
My dog chases them. Ummm, wonders Flo. Are you trying to get it? Are you trying to grab that camera? Yeh.
And he’ll put his head up when he means yes, if you’re asking him questions and put his head down if he means no, so it’s quite, you know what, you know what he’ll wants and he’s quite clear.
Good boy. The night offers many strange smells and noises but worst of all, ahh, what could be worse Scott? What could be worse? Good boy. Almost got it.
There we go. Too many cats. Do you like cats Scott? Have you got a cat? No. Do you want a cat? Yes.
Doesn’t know what to do Scott. She doesn’t know what to do.
Right, are you going to turn? You turn? Ahh, can you see them all? Can you see all the animals? There’s a badger and fox and an owl.
Two strange animals appear in the moonlight but before she has time to answer, ahh, they’re all sitting up for the dog. Right, turn the page. Good boy.
She loves the night but has rarely been beyond the garden gates. Are you going to turn the page again? Right, have you got it? Right, right, are you going to turn it? Ahh, well done.
Oh dear says the badger and fox, it’s a wild cat. Oh no shouts Flo, it’s Daisy, ahh no, it’s Daisy’s afraid of the cat. What we going to do Scott? Going to find out what happens?
Are you going to turn it? There you go.
James (Scott’s Dad)
Scott’s been coming to Play Plus now for about a year and a half and he gets great enthusiasm and what not for it. What he actually gets out of it is just, just some fun time with other kids. It’s quite difficult, I’m a single parent and working full time, you don’t really have much time to, you know, do anything as it were. So it just me a wee bit of free time to you know, do a bit in the garden or if I’m working like in you know, to take Scott to work with me. I’m very fortunate cos it’s a family business.
Jenni
He does have limited vocabulary. He might come with his computer today and if he does then he’ll be chatting away to you all day.
What’s your favourite room to go into?
Do you like to play on the street? Do you like to play out on the street with all your friends? Where about? That one. Ahhh.
Scott
Gran’s house.
Jenni
Like to go to Gran’s house?
Which one? Dad’s work? Do you like to go to dad’s work?
End transcript: Communication
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Discussion

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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