Thursday 6 December 2012

Being Heard - Getting it right for looked after disabled children and young people

After learning about the current situation for looked after disabled children and young people in Scotland during the first workshop, the workshop today explored children and young people’s experiences.

The morning session is very interactive, and fun!! After an excited warm-up, staff and young people from East Park present a short play called 'Alisha’s Surprise', which raises the issue of disabled children not having their views listened to, and having arrangements made for them rather than with them.

Workshop participants break into small groups to create a 'still image' of Alisha not being listened to. The characters then describe their feelings and thoughts of the scenario. The facilitator then asks the groups to make changes to their scene, so that Alisha's voice could be listened to. The drama activities work well - participants put themselves into the "shoes" of disabled children, they suggest different ways to ensure disabled children can be heard, as well as considering the additional views of parents, social workers, friends and society.

The afternoon session begins with Tam Baillie - Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People.  He says that children’s views should be included no matter how difficult a situation may be, and though it is not easy to change the world drastically, we can take the initiative to respect and value children’s views. Children should feel they are important and their best interests taken into account (as advocated by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)).

Afterwards, participants then go around tables and discuss different ways to communicate with children and young people in small groups. ‘Using communication passports’, ‘Exploring forum theatre’, ‘Involving young people in responding to the Children and Young People Bill’, ‘Using talking mats’ and ‘Viewpoints’ are all ways in which this can be achieved.

Gavin Crichton advises on how Forum Theatre helps children to participate and improvise during a drama workshop. The performance doesn’t focus on the participant’s personal story – it helps children to link the social issues with a specific scenario in the performance setting.

Another interesting way of communicating with children is ‘Talking Mats’. This method helps children communicate with professionals and adults by using sets of pictures and symbols to express their thoughts.

All these communication channels have one thing in common, children’s views can be heard by different means. Resources may be limited, but different organisations are working hard to help children’s views to be spread.

It’s a fruitful day! Looking forward to understanding more about looked after children in the next workshop ‘Being included’ which will be held on 6 February 2013.

By Maggie Vai, workshop participant

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