Communication Needs for Disabled Children and Young People
Communicating with disabled children and young people can be challenging, however there are ways to support the interaction. Here are just some pointers.
Gathering information about disabled children and young people
The foundation for good communication is information. The more information is collected (e.g. via a form) ahead of a dance class or event, the better schools and teachers can plan and prepare for a successful outcome.
Some of the things which we recommend to find out about are:
- Name and age.
- Communication needs (particularly if the learner has any visual or hearing impairments).
- Physical conditions (particularly if there’s anything that may require action, e.g. epilepsy).
- Medical information.
- Generally, any signs and symptoms to look out for and how to deal with them.
- Any arrangements for parents/carers/guardians (e.g. where will they be during the class).
Beware of data protection laws
As will be known by now, stricter legislation to protect people’s data have come into force in the UK in May 2018.
The Information Commissioner’s Office website provides a wealth of information and guidance about how to comply. For ISTD members we have also partnered with EduCare, one of the UK’s leading providers of essential duty of care and safeguarding training, to offer their Practical Guide to GDPR Course (at £20.00 excl. VAT). ISTD members can simply log in to My ISTD and to access the course.
What are ways to communicate with disabled young learners?
With information about participants’ needs collected upfront, it is much easier to think about what communication aids may be useful to have in place.
- Handouts (consider type, colour and size of fonts as well as material).
- Agenda/Objectives (helps learners understand what is coming and what is expected).
- Timetables (especially for longer days colour and images can aid understanding and memory).
- Communication aids (consider if any of the learners rely on devices or also interpreters to support hearing or seeing).
- Unaided communication support (consider if it may be useful to have basic knowledge of sign language (BSL), or Makaton, e.g. hello, toilet, happy or sad).