Your Voice, Your Choice: Exploring an approach to elicit how children with speech, language, and communication needs feel about their school learning and support experiences

  • Ashley Bloom

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    A children’s outreach service requested a method to elicit the views of children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) about their school learning and support experiences. Educational services are coming under increasing pressure to respect children’s rights by enabling them to participate in decisions that affect them. In addition, it has become necessary for services to find ways to account for costs and demonstrate impact in a period of austerity. However, a review of the literature identified a lack of empirically-based methods with which to elicit voice from this population that both respect children’s rights and are practical for services and users.
    In order to meet the outreach requirement and in consideration of the literature, the study created and set out to answer the following two research questions:
    How effective is the tool kit at eliciting the school learning and support experiences of children with speech, language and communication needs at school?
    Is there concordance between the children’s elicited experiences and the adult’s perception of those experiences?
    Underpinned by a critical realist framework, the Your Voice, Your Choice tool kit (YVYC) was created to explore relational and contextual interpretations of children’s affective lived experiences in school. Cases compared seven children’s views with adults who were responsible for implementing their learning and support structures. Data were subjected to a combination of thematic and cross-case inductive and deductive analyses. An iterative action research process enabled design modifications to the YVYC tool kit.
    Findings revealed that the YVYC tool kit offered unique insights into the children’s affected experiences in all cases. The tool supported children to explore how they felt about their school learning and support experiences through overcoming some of the barriers of communication and enabling them to reflect upon their experiences. Primarily, this was through scaffolding competence, reducing anxiety, and affording children with a voice without forcing them to vocalise. The tool was also found to support safeguarding and provide an account of well-being; information that is traditionally hard to obtain from this population, but vital to promoting children’s rights and addressing social-political concerns regarding mental health in schools. Uniquely, the tool kit revealed how misconceptions can silently work to limit the capacity of education services to meet the needs of the children while alternative explanations offer stakeholders a more harmonious way forward.
    Overall, this project provides a comprehensive theoretical and practical foundation for the workings of a holistic elicitation tool kit method. It demonstrated that it provides an opportunity for children with SLCN to express their views in matters that affect them, when otherwise they may not have the opportunity.
    Date of AwardMay 2019
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorClare Wood (Supervisor) & Sarah Critten (Supervisor)

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