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You will have seen in this learning object that verbal ways of communicating with children and young people can be supplemented by a range of play and art-based approaches.

There aren't hard and fast rules about what approach to use for different situations, age groups or cultures. What is most important in deciding how to communicate is finding the best approach for the individual child or young person and the role and task you have with them.

This will involve some careful prior reflection, learning about the child, experimentation, and monitoring their response to different kinds of activity.

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Communicating in this way with young people is not the easy option. Workers must involve themselves fully as individuals in an engaged relationship if this approach is to work; a distanced 'professionalism' will not be enough.

Personal qualities will be needed as well as knowledge and skill, such as a capacity to be playful, creative, fun, real and emotionally warm - and not to mind feeling silly!

If you don't feel you have these qualities, or aren't prepared to use your whole self in your professional role, then you should reconsider working with children in this way. Try talking this over in supervision or tutorials if you're not sure.

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Health warning!

It is important that you do not step outside the boundaries of your skill and experience nor avoid direct communication where it is necessary within your role and to achieve particular tasks.

Unless you have undertaken additional training you should be wary of using these skills and techniques as a primary method in more intensive or therapeutic work as an art or play therapist would (Wickham and West 2002).

Instead, you should see the play or art forms as "bridges to open up communication with children who are finding it hard to express themselves and engage with others at a direct or verbal level" (Lefevre, 2008, p.130).

Always consider whether children might benefit more or additionally from some direct verbal contact about issues of concern to them.

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Jot down some responses in a notepad to help you think about how you might plan to work with a child or young person using some of the methods discussed in this object.

  • What support and guidance would you want?
  • What would be your plans for beginning the work?
  • What resources would you want to get and where might you go to get them in your agency's budget?

NB Don't forget that these ways of working aren't just restricted to children and young people! Many adult users of care services will also find it helpful to express their views, concerns, thoughts, feelings and inner experiences through creative means.

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If you would like to learn more about Communication Skills, please visit SCIE's other e-learning resources on the SCIE web site (

You have now reached the end of this learning object. You may want to go back and re-visit sections as sometimes things only make sense second or third time round! You can also visit the References section now for ideas for extra reading/research.