Social Work Now, issue 46, pages 9-18.
Listening to children’s voices and accessing their views about service provision in the education, health, social services and legal disciplines has received increasing international and national focus (Lewis, 2004). Establishing the views and consent of children and young people is a fundamental aspect of child protection social work whereby children’s safety relies on their being listened to and involved in decisions about their own lives (Franklin & Sloper, 2007). Much legislation around the world now emphasises the importance of seeking and utilising children and young people’s opinions (Morris, 2002). New Zealand has legislative, policy and practice requirements to this effect, as well as obligations through international and local instruments such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) and the New Zealand Disability Strategy.
Despite these requirements and obligations, international and local research has demonstrated that disabled children have been largely excluded from consultation and involvement in decisions that affect them (Rabiee, Sloper, & Beresford, 2005). In particular, social workers’ communication with disabled children and young people has been identified as problematic, as social workers often assume some disabled children or young people cannot communicate as a result of their impairment (Kelly, 2005).
This article reviews the literature since 2000 on communication and participation with disabled children and young people within the context of current disability theory. Based on the literature, a set of practice tips regarding facilitating participation and communication with disabled children and young people is included at the end of this article.