As we can see from the list above, many factors can and do, impact on the lives of children and young people. Some are linked together and ‘almost inevitable’ like a domino effect. For example, not all children and young people are ‘academic’ and may not enjoy school. It may be that they are bullied at school, or that they have a learning disability such as dyslexia which prevents them from learning as much as they could or simply makes the whole experience an unpleasant one. Added to this they may come from a home environment that does not encourage learning and academia and therefore feel school is a waste of time.
This could lead to negative behaviour causing exclusion from school and therefore re-enforcing the belief that school is a waste of time. A child who does not do well at school is likely to leave with no qualifications, impacting on their earning potential as an adult, which in turn will impact on their lifestyle. It may also mean that the child drifts into a life of crime or anti-social behaviour due to not being able to get a job or even out of sheer boredom or peer pressure.
A child from a minority ethnic group may experience discrimination due to aspects of their culture. For instance the way they dress, food they eat or do not eat and even religious practices may make a child ‘different’ from their peers. Because of this a child may be bullied, leading to low self-esteem and low self-confidence and feelings of isolation. They may not fully understand the language of their peers leading to misunderstandings. This may make them withdrawn around their peers and reluctant to speak to anyone who does not speak their language, which could potentially lead to difficulties later in life.
Personal choices of a child and their families are more limited if money is tight. They are less likely to have a choice where they live, or what schools they attend or even what food they eat. The child may grow up with a very limited view of the world and their aspirations may be limited as a result.
Poverty can have a massive impact on life chances and outcomes in anyone’s life. Children from poorer families may not be able to have toys and books to aid their development. Their parents may not even be able to afford birthday or Christmas presents for their children. School trips or holidays to provide their children with new experiences may be out of the question if they are struggling to find the money to even feed and clothe their children. Poorer children and young people may not like school, having come from a family that see no point in education and therefore not achieve any qualifications. In turn they are likely to end up in a low paying job, or stuck in the benefits system with no idea or means to improve their situation.
This could lead to a young person drifting into a life of crime, either through boredom or in an attempt to boost their income. Young children brought up in unskilled families are five times more likely to die in an accident that a child from a professional family. Poverty is likely to affect a child’s health later in life. The family may be forced to live in sub-standard, damp, housing or be unable to afford good quality, nutritious food, which could impact on a child’s health later in life. Children from poorer families are often born smaller and poverty is also known to shorten lives.
A child’s experiences in life will influence their personal choices as they grow up. The nature of these choices will influence their adult lives. Children need to understand consequences (of actions) in order to be able to make informed choices. They need to be empowered to do this by being encouraged to experience different things and by having the opportunity to make personal choices within the boundaries of their own understanding.
If all decisions are made for a child and they never have the opportunity to choose anything for themselves how are they going to be able to cope with the decisions that have to be made every day as an adult? For our students even simple things like choosing what to wear, or what to eat each meal could be complicated if a young person is not taught as a child how to make these decisions within a safe & responsible environment with support to help if the decision is wrong. The Every Child Matters framework ensures that policies and services are designed to meet children’s needs and therefore give them the tools to make the right personal choices.
It is a legal requirement for services to be fully accessible to disabled children, young people and adults and the Every Child Matters outcomes also demand that services meet the individual needs of children and young people. This helps to ensure that the future development of the child is enabled and that the child is safeguarded in the appropriate manner. Different students have different needs and it is impossible to care for them all in the same way. Each need to be treated as an individual and their needs and wishes taken into account. This is achieved by assessing the needs and capabilities of each student and then carefully risk assessing in order to allow the child to achieve as much as possible for themselves, whilst enabling support where necessary. Each student has a care plan created for them which detail person centred plans to provide the best means of caring for them.
If a child or young person takes an active part in decision about them, it empowers them and shows respect for them and their thoughts and opinions. It makes them feel a part of something and that they belong. It is wrong to assume what a person wants without consulting them and taking their opinions into account. It de-values a persons own ideas.
A child who actively takes part in decisions concerning them will be more confident and will find it easier to deal with new ideas and situations than one who has everything decided for them.
The child is also more likely to be more independent as they will be able to make decisions for themselves with confidence. Even the smallest decisions can help make a difference. For example a support worker may choose clothes for a student each morning. The student may start to rip the clothes he is wearing, until one morning the support worker lays three tops on the bed and asks the student to choose. The clothes ripping stops. The student is not only learning independence from this but also life skills. A student who has always had decisions made for him will never be able to learn the possible consequences of decisions he may have to make in the future.
Having a person centred environment that is age appropriate will allow a child to develop their skills and experiences in a structured and safe way that allows the child to succeed. By risk assessing every situation and organising activities that allow the child to make decisions and achieve, we can have a positive impact on a child’s life.
A child must be allowed to express his views and opinions, and have them ‘listened’ to. The child may not be able to verbally express themselves, in which case staff need to be able to recognise when the child is ‘telling’ them something. Staff who observe a child and get to know him will be able to safely assess what the child is capable of and the areas he needs help to develop. Activities can them be structured to allow the child to succeed in small steps, and to make choices for themselves whilst having someone there to support if things go wrong. This will help the student later in life as they will be more confident about making choices for themselves.
Observations and reflections, successes and even failures should be shared with the team in able to further support the student to develop, and age appropriate resources and activities should be used and planned. For example – if a student likes to watch Thomas the Tank Engine but is 16yrs old it could be argued that Thomas the Tank is not age appropriate. Staff could perhaps encourage the student to develop an interest in real trains by taking him on train rides and to stations. The student could also be introduced to dvd’s that are aimed at slightly older children and over a period of time try to increase this age range. This would have a positive effect on the student when he moved on to adult services as he would be likely to have better self-esteem and more confidence.
A child with disabilities may face discrimination and stereotyping which may prevent them being offered the same life chances as a non-disabled child. People may just see the disability rather than the child and rather than offer the child a chance to try an activity or to do something for themselves just do it for them. Family members or carers may, with the best intentions, do everything for the child rather than allowing them to try for themselves, which would impact later in life as the child would have no idea how to do even the simplest thing.
A child in a wheelchair for example, may be prevented from taking part in certain activities due to no access being provided for wheelchairs, or the family of a disabled child may have financial difficulties and may not be able to afford specialist equipment which may make the child’s life easier and allow them to do more. Money worries may also cause extra stress to parents which in turn may affect the disabled child emotionally.
People may assume that because the child is disabled, that they are also stupid. They therefore may not be offered the same educational activities as a non-disabled child and their talents undiscovered. The child may also not be able to attend school for long periods which would impact not only on their leaning and achievements, but also on their social skills and emotional well-being. It may too impact on their confidence and self-esteem resulting in depression and feelings of isolation.
A child with a physical impairment may be mentally able to attend mainstream school but be bullied by his so called ‘normal’ peers because he is ‘different’ to them. This may again cause feelings of isolation and depression and low self-esteem. A consequence of this may be under-achievement and/or bad behaviour, potentially impacting on the child later in life.
A child on the autism spectrum, or with ADHD or a milder learning disability may be labelled as ‘disruptive’ because of his condition and a result be excluded from school or ignored by his teachers in favour of a less troublesome child. He may not get the professional help he needs because no one recognises his disability. As a consequence he may not learn, lose interest in learning and school, and not be able to hold down a job. As a result of this he may drift into a life of crime. A child who cannot verbally communicate may discover that negative behaviour, ie tantrums or lashing out, is the only way he can communicate to get what he wants, or that it gets him what he wants faster than more positive behaviour.
A positive attitude towards disability can do many things for a child’s self esteem, and help the child develop a resilience towards any discrimination and stereotyping they may be subjected to later in life. If someone is constantly told that they CAN’T do something they will come to believe it and not even try. Therefore positive re-enforcement is very important whilst at the same time being realistic about any limitations a child may face due to their impairment. Be prepared to always provide the child with new activities to try as you may be surprised by a child’s abilities to do an activity. For example, a student in my setting was reluctant to do anything. He did not like to go out, had never ridden a bicycle, never even been on a swing. However one day he was taken to a horse therapy session and I noticed that although he would not get off the bus, he was showing an interest in the horses. We continued to take him and with slow but sure steps, firstly getting off the bus, then touching the horse.
Eventually the student rode the horse a short distance. At each small milestone the student was clearly proud of himself and the experiences had a beneficial effect on his overall mood. Showing positive attitudes in this way not only builds confidence and helps a person feel valued, it also helps prevent feelings of isolation and teaches others – both students and staff- to also adopt positive attitudes. Company procedures are governed by legislation which ensures inclusive and anti-discriminatory practice and teaches a respect for differences. A positive attitude also helps build good relationships throughout society.
The social model of disability recognises the person rather than the disability and that discrimination is created by society, not by the person’s impairments. It looks at what needs to be done to help a person lead a fulfilling life. Ie What can change in the person’s world rather than trying to change the person themselves. The medical model sees a patient or rather a condition that needs to be treated. The person is sick and needs to get better. It tries to change the person to fit into the world around him and make him ‘normal’.
In practice this means that that we have person centred plans for each student and adapt our way of working to suit them. At my setting we have staff trained not only in care but also in speech & language, psychology, and other professions, to be as accessable as possible to the students. We also have IEP targets set by the school and communication profiles to show how a person likes to communicate and various different aids to help them do it. We try to remove any barriers that prevent the student reaching his or her own potential. This in turn helps promote confidence and self-esteem.
The medical model could potentially hold a student back by labelling him, which prevents us seeing the student as a whole person. Instead only seeing his condition and trying to ‘cure’ it.
Often children with disabilities will need extra support. This may come in the form of LSA’s in school, or a social worker, doctors or a sure start centre. Some children may need help from therapists or other health professionals. For instance an autistic child or one with learning difficulties may need extra support at school or even a specialist school. A child suffering with cerebral palsy may need help from a speech therapist. A deaf or hard of hearing child may need help from an audiologist and may also need specialist equipment (hearing aids) to help them. Assistive technology, as it is known, can take various forms from wheelchairs and mobility devices to computer hardware and software to enable people to achieve tasks they would not be able to otherwise.
Equality is the practice of ensuring that everyone is treated fairly and given fair chances. People must not be unfairly discriminated against because of their race, religion, gender, disability, age or sexual orientation, to mane just a few. Diversity recognises these differences and the values of them. Inclusion is about ensuring that all children and young people have the same opportunities and are included. It is not about them all doing the same thing but having opportunities and access to education & experiences. By working to and promoting these qualities, services are not only following the law and working to best practice they are creating a positive environment for both students and staff.
All services are governed by legislation and best working practices to promote equality, diversity & inclusion to promote positive outcomes, but they may go about it in different ways. At my setting we have person centred plans which take into account the wishes of both the students and their parents, we recognise and respect any religious requirements a student may have, for example providing a student with only halal meat. We adapt the environment and activities to meet each student’s needs and capabilities, and we communicate with in each student’s preferred manner. For some students this means using communication aids such as PECS, for others it may mean using their own version of signing and speaking slowly using key words only.
In a hospital they may do much the same things but are likely to be more rigid and institutionalised. For instance meal times will be at a set time and probably from a set menu, although the menu will include meals to accommodate special dietary requirements. Staff in hospital may not be trained in signing and if they are they are not likely to recognise a student’s own signs. At my setting we have the resources and also the staff to be able to take a child to Mosque whereas in a hospital it may be that parents have to request someone from the Mosque to visit instead.