TOP TIPS for engaging children with additional needs

December 16, 2020


Sue Hollywood is the registered manager of Broad Park House, which provides residential short breaks to children aged 3-18 with learning disabilities and additional needs.

Sue says,

Express works with our young people, it is about tapping in to a certain area to capture their thoughts/feelings

and gives her top tips below.

Get to know the child

You’ve got to know the child well to be able to engage with them. It’s about pulling something out of the ordinary they like to engage with. You’ve got to be very aware of the facial indications (sometimes it’s just the turn of an eye, or an expression on their face). You’ve got to know these young people to engage in any kind of way with them.

Try out different approaches

We try one way – and if it doesn’t work, try a different way. What works for one child might not work for another, but you have to keep pursuing it. It’s all about individuality, not everyone will fit in a square box. For example, for a young man who has been using the Express app, the amount of praise and support he gets for doing this work makes sure he wants to do it again (read this young person’s story on the link below to ‘Images More Than Words).

Give plenty of praise

For many young people being able to express themselves, giving them that sense of achievement will make them want to do it again. A written piece of praise about what was said won’t work for them and it needs to be translated back into pictures they understand.

Take your time

It’s also about giving them the time to be able to engage. Sometimes people want things done and try to do them too quickly, but things can take time and perseverance. ‘Take your time’ is a good tip. It’s about being adaptable and creative in the ways we try to engage the young people in using the app, but also recognising we have to be creative about the way we give the feedback to the young person when they use it or in any forms of communication.

Thank you so much Sue for these brilliant insights. We can’t recommend highly enough the sister article to this blog, ‘Images More Than Words‘. Read it here.

Mind Of My Own and Coventry City Council children’s services have partnered up to produce high quality materials to help participation practice, with a focus on using our apps, which will be even more useful as the Covid pandemic continues and leaves more children at risk. You can read an earlier blog here, which also has a link to a longer read for more detailed help and ideas.