Due to a child’s age or developmental stage, a child may not be able to communicate, have the words, cognitive understanding or emotional awareness to digest complex feelings or experience



This has been collated from information from the SCIE (Social Care Institute for Excellence) learning course that I have taken; this information has been re: written in my own words so copyright has not been infringed.

I wanted to share it with you all so we can all learn effectively and give the best care we can give.

Due to a child’s age or developmental stage, a child may not be able to communicate, have the words, cognitive understanding or emotional awareness to digest complex feelings or experiences. However through the use of play, known as a symbolic language, they can learn how to communicate and make sense of these issues or scenarios. These have been described as the ‘hundred languages of childhood’ (Edwards et al, 2003).

Before going gun-ho into incorporating play and creative methods into your work with children you must understand more about the role symbolism plays in the world of the child.

There are other aspects which may impact a childs ability to communicate and this could be a certain disability. They may choose not to speak, not know how to use spoken language, limited speech or uses language in an unusual way. “Instead they may use augmentative or alternative communication methods (AAC) such as sign, symbols, pictures or electronic communication aids. You may require help from an interpreter or someone who knows the child well” (SCIE, 2013).

“Other children who use social care services, the effects of disability, abuse, neglect, trauma and insecurity of attachment mean they are less able to coherently convey their thoughts, feelings, wishes and concerns” (SCIE, 2013).

Some children may not understand your questioning or difficult discussions about their neglect or abuse and they can feel guilty, ambivalent or unclear feelings about the discussion. Some do not understand what is being said, or have guilty, unclear or ambivalent feelings about the issue under discussion. They may respond to questioning in all kinds of ways.

Practitioners and carers need to use play as a form of therapy. By using play, visual images, metaphors or other creative arts as part of an assessment or ‘direct work’- this can be argued to be a better way for children to express freely, learn and develop more holistically and to understand what has happened. This helps children to express their inner feelings without being laden with words.


Consequences of discussing issues can play quite high on the chart of why children don’t disclose abuse and so the use of these methods can help young people discuss their feelings without having to disclose what is really happening.

Yet be aware that sometimes young people will be difficult to engage in direct conversations- this is due to their past experience has been that adults don’t understand them, are not interested in what they say or don’t do what they want – and so as practitioners we need to create a safe understanding stimulating and resourceful environment where we are interested in their views, beliefs and interests.

Games and activities can provide children and their workers with a ‘third thing’ to focus on when something difficult is under discussion and help a relationship to develop so that children feel safer

(Winnicott, 1996).


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