- To meet the UNCROC and the UNCRPD expectations, children must be involved in decision-making about policy and law that affects them.
- When asking children to participate, there must be clear goals, a willingness to listen, and the intention to facilitate change.
- In challenging the current policy or procedures, all parties need to be acknowledged and supported. It is important to recognise the ambiguity that exists between safety and autonomy for children.
- Children generally recognise that there will be limitations in regard to their agency and they value support in decision-making from people with whom they have a meaningful relationship.
- Children with disabilities cannot be seen as a homogenous group. When consulting children with disabilities, socio-cultural and disability specific variables must be considered. The purpose of the consultation might best define which children’s voices or opinions should be sought.
- When planning research or consultation, ensure that strategies take into account the financial cost in time and materials in order to be effective.
- Ensure as wide a representation as possible so that policy makers see the contribution of children with disabilities as important to include. Avoid the use of “convenience” samples.
- Consider who is setting the agenda. The issues at the forefront of the mind of policy makers might not be the most important issue for the disabled child.
- Ensure that the children who participate know the outcomes in terms of policy change and when relevant that they have the opportunity to evaluate the change as it relates to practice.
- Research led by children needs to be supported by ensuring the children have the resources that they need and any necessary access agreements are in place.
- To encourage children with disabilities’ participation and develop their role as a citizen, involve them in decisions about their care from a young age and move on to involvement in decisions about service and policy over time.
- Emancipatory approaches take time to develop, therefore consider carefully the best approach for the intended purpose of seeking children with disabilities’ input, the resources available, and the timeframe. When advice is required within a short timeframe, or on a topic where the child’s voice will be one of many, an emancipatory approach might not be helpful, however the suggestions below can be followed for seeking information from appropriate participants.
- Multiple strategies might be required for a full representation of children with disabilities’ perspectives. Tailor communication to the child and be prepared to use specific devices that are familiar to the child if necessary.
- Strategies that have been shown to be effective include: drawing, talking mats, photography, cue cards, pictures, tape recording, questionnaires with adaptations if necessary, dolls or similar toys, story-telling, drama, digital and other media, music, and observation.
- When interviewing allow for more than one meeting to assist with building rapport, be guided by non-verbal as well as verbal communication, be familiar with and use questioning strategies that encourage the child to accurately share their opinion and knowledge, and allow the child time to answer. Some children might have difficulty “reading” body language and tone of voice, therefore verbal communication with them needs to be clear.
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