The Health and Well-being indicators in GiRfEC outline that children and young people should be given a voice in decisions that affect their well-being.
‘Voice’ is any method that allows a child or young person to be actively involved in the decision making process, regardless of the form it takes. Providing the opportunity for children and young people on the autism spectrum to have their voice heard, may require modified or creative methods of communication that can be time consuming to develop. The challenge created by this can become a barier to pupils with autism actively participating in choice and decision making. As ‘A Right to Speak’ points out, the costs to individuals who are not provided with the tools needed to have their voices heard is significant. They are likely to encounter a wide range of problems including restricted educational attainment and limited employment opportunities (Scottish Government 2012).
There are a number of useful methods for bringing autism voice to the fore including:
- Visual Narratives
- Personalised Diaries
- Talking Mats
- Comic Strip Conversations (Gray,1994)
- Visual communication tools
- Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
- Rating scales
- Choice boards
‘To help pupils with autism take some control over their lives, they should be taught strategies to evaluate and report on their:
- Likes and dislikes
- Strengths, interests and difficulties
- Performance on a task and the extent to which they enjoyed the activity
- Short-term needs, for example decisions about what to wear, what to eat, and what to do
- Long-term needs, for example employment or living arrangements’ Lamb(2009)
Pupil voice can be developed and encouraged in many different ways. Pupils should have the opportunity to discuss their learning and their progress regularly and to contribute ideas and suggestions on how they can move forward. Young people may also become involved in wider decision making eg through participation in pupil council.
- Active participation can only take place in an environment where a pupils feel safe to express opinion
- discussion with a known and trusted adult can ensure the pupil understands why their views are important
- Is there an effective method of communication for the individual and situation?
- what strategies are required to enable and support active participation?
- IT may provide useful tools for some pupils – emails, blogs etc
- Additional time may be required for pupils to formulate and express opinions
- Make sure pupil understands the language being used
- Identify opportunities to develop participation – not just at pre arranged meetings
- Share the purpose of collecting information
- Make use of pupil’s views – provide feedback (value participation)
Toolbox 2009 (See Pupil Involvement at bottom of this page)