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Whose Voice Should We Listen To?

On Twitter I follow Huffington Post Parents and I read a tweet with the introduction, ‘Parents of a 7yr old boy in a wheelchair were shocked when they saw his class picture…’  With such a headline I had to click to read the article in full. Please read the article to get the background information on this story.

Like most people reading this, I was shocked by this story and then reflected on a few points.

The mother said the image was discriminatory. The father’s view was that although it was upsetting and hurtful the photographer and/or school did not intentionally discriminate against their son.

The photograph was retaken and this time Miles was sat on the bench with his peers. An expert on disability found this to still show a lack of awareness of Miles, as the wheelchair is part of him. Miles’s father commented that when he is at home he is not always in his wheelchair but like any other child relaxes on the sofa. Mile’s father was also present when the second photograph was taken.

My personal reflections on this story, is that how we can all make assumptions on children and their disabilities and additional needs. We make choices for them sometimes without asking their opinions and/or understanding their clues on their personal thoughts on their care and education.

As with this case, even the parents’ opinion differed and an expert thought that he should have had the second photograph taken with his wheelchair.

In addition, my thoughts are who really knows what is right or wrong for a child?  As a mother of two sons with learning challenges, my advice to their teachers may have been wrong. Also, experts and specialists’ opinions are not always in the best interests of the child.

This story reaffirmed for me the importance of raising awareness on inclusion and disabilities within society and those who provide services for children.

More importantly we should think about the voice of the child in their care and education. For instance, what matters to them, how do they like to be addressed, how do they like to be spoken too and what will make them feel included, etc?

A reminder to us all is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989.  Articles 12 and 13; state: “A child’s opinion should be taken into account on anything that affects them. And “children should have information disseminated in a way that enables them to make choices and decisions.”

I will be discussing the importance of the voice of child within my course. ‘Are you listening to me-listening and responding to children ©’

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