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Children's voices: working with children and young people with additional needs.

Wake, Eileen


Eileen Wake


The engagement of children and young people at the centre of policy and service provision has long been regarded as a central tenet of the Every Child Matters agenda. However, it has become increasingly apparent that there are critical gaps in training professionals to communicate effectively with children and young people (Lefevre et al., 2008), meaning that the experience of involvement may be inconsistent (Ofsted, 2009) and therefore unsatisfactory. This book endeavours to address some of these gaps by examining the literature and identifying the crucial communication skills that professionals require. The book also seeks to develop a political argument as to why children and young people should be listened to and supported to have a voice in their present and future care and education. All contributors to this edited book are experienced practitioners covering a wide range of professional backgrounds, although it is noted that a social work perspective appears to be missing. Situating their work within an evolving policy framework, each contributing author deals with a particular aspect of effective communication with children and young people in a logical, flowing sequence. The book challenges the reader to think about their attitudes towards working with children and young people as well as identifying key principles of good practice. I particularly liked Chapter Four, written by Eileen Wake, which looks at a variety of complex situations requiring different communication techniques as well as encouraging professionals to interact with children and young people about their wishes, feelings and needs-highly personal matters that can often be difficult to engage with or ascertain. However, there are some key omissions that mean that this book is a useful first text, but is limited in terms of a more comprehensive look at the issue of effective communication with children and young people. The first omission highlights the book's lack of a social work perspective, as there is no mention of the excellent work by Lefevre et al. (2008) on communicating with looked after children. Their core conditions of knowing, being and doing would have been extremely valuable to discuss and incorporate within this book, enabling practitioners to better understand the complexity of effective communication with children and young people. Second, the authors do not fully engage with an exploration of communication methods and skills with children under eight years of age. There were many missed opportunities to look at this key area of work that raises anxiety for practitioners that can often mean young children are not communicated with effectively or at all. Penny Lancaster's excellent work is referred to (e.g. Lancaster and Broadbent, 2003), but could have been used more substantially, thereby emphasising the importance of direct communication with young children and enabling a full exploration of possible methods, skills and resources. Third, there were several points where key issues were raised without development, which became frustrating. For example, on p. 35, an examination of Roger Hart's ladder of participation could have been developed in terms of encouraging practitioners to challenge those practices and procedures that regularly exclude children's voices. Additionally, on p. 25, in a subsection entitled ‘Skills', there is comment that some children do not communicate verbally and thus an adaptation of personal communication style might be necessary. The author does not engage sufficiently with this comment or signpost the reader to where in the book this issue might be dealt with. Lastly, the book does not look at the significance of silence in communication, especially for children and young people for whom silence may the only protection they have and how the choices they make to speak or not to speak tell a significant story about their lives and needs should practitioners be prepared and equipped to listen (Kohli, 2006). Overall, this book is a worthwhile addition to the discourse concerning communication with children and young people at an introductory level. I hope that a second edition will develop some of the themes and grapple with the more complex issues, offering practitioners a greater opportunity to explore possible methods of communication and thereby give encouragement to develop their own practice.


Wake, E. (2009). Children's voices: working with children and young people with additional needs. Effective communication and engagement with children and young people, their families and carers (43 - 60). Learning Matters Ltd

Acceptance Date Jan 1, 2009
Publication Date Jan 1, 2009
Pages 43 - 60
Book Title Effective communication and engagement with children and young people, their families and carers
ISBN 978-1-84445-265-1
Public URL