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Working with children with learning disabilities and/or who communicate non-verbally: Research experiences and their implications for social work education, increased participation and social inclusion

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Social exclusion, although much debated in the UK, frequently focuses on children as a key 'at risk' group. However, some groups, such as disabled children, receive less consideration. Similarly, despite both UK and international policy and guidance encouraging the involvement of disabled children and their right to participate in decision-making arenas, they are frequently denied this right. UK based evidence suggests that disabled children's participation lags behind that of their non-disabled peers, often due to social work practitioners' lack of skills, expertise and knowledge on how to facilitate participation. The exclusion of disabled children from decision-making in social care processes echoes their exclusion from participation in society. This paper seeks to begin to address this situation, and to provide some examples of tools that social work educators can introduce into pre- and post-qualifying training programmes, as well as in-service training. The paper draws on the experiences of researchers using non-traditional qualitative research methods, especially non-verbal methods, and describes two research projects; focusing on the methods employed to communicate with and involve disabled children, the barriers encountered and lessons learnt. Some of the ways in which these methods of communication can inform social work education are explored alongside wider issues of how and if increased communication can facilitate greater social inclusion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-324
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Work Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009

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