1.8 Capacity to participate

Are infants capable of expressing their views? If so, how?

What about a child who cannot communicate verbally? How can you acknowledge and respect the views of these children?

Even very small children can tell you what they like or dislike about being in hospital and can produce ideas for making their stay less frightening and distressing. Provided they are given support, adequate information and allowed to express themselves in ways that are meaningful to them, all children can participate in issues that are important to them. This can be through pictures, poems, drama, photographs, as well as more conventional discussions, interviews and group work.

In the case of babies, their lack of speech should not be an obstacle to considering and respecting their point of view and feelings. For example, they can express their feelings of distress, fear, distrust, or comfort through facial expressions, body language, crying and smiling. A health worker can use this information to identify needs such as the need for a nap or a feeding, responding to whether or not they are in pain. It is important for health professionals to establish a positive relationship with a baby and his or her parents and involve them during the consultation or treatment.

Some children with disabilities, such as children who are hearing or visually impaired, or those that have autism, may experience difficulties in communicating verbally. It is equally important to explore approaches that allow them to express their views. Parents and caregivers will often be able to advise on how to communicate effectively with disabled children.

All children have the capability of expressing their views. Therefore it is necessary for health professionals to explore the many ways that enable the child to articulate these views, concerns and opinions.

1.7 What are the challenges to participation and how can we address them?

1.9 Assessing competency