"Building a better picture" – Practitioners’ views of using a listening approach with young disabled children

Rix, Jonathan; Parry, John and Malibha-Pinchbeck, Memory (2020). "Building a better picture" – Practitioners’ views of using a listening approach with young disabled children. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 18(1) pp. 3–17.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1476718X19885990


This paper reports on a study of practitioner’s use of In-the-Picture - a reflective, observational approach, - when delivering early intervention programmes to young disabled children. To date In-the-Picture has been used mainly by researchers to study interactions and learning between young children, practitioners and the children’s parents in home and early childhood settings. Practitioners involved in this early research had expressed an interest in using the tool themselves. This project aimed to engage such potential users, support them in using the approach and gain evidence of its impact upon their practice.

In-the-Picture facilitates listening and communication between adults and children with learning disabilities. It is based upon a socio-cultural understanding of learning, seeing the parents, children, and practitioners as agents participating in an emerging teaching and learning process. It derives from qualitative grounded research method which enables the researcher to consider the child’s perspective, through the use of first-person narrative observation, photography of the child’s focus of attention, and reflective discussion with the child, practitioners, and family.

This study involved 10 Portage services in England, who provide weekly home visits with a focus on supporting play and communication with their child. Training was delivered to over 80 Portage Home Visitors across these 10 services. A selected sample of 20 practitioners, 2 from each service, was interviewed after 6 weeks and again within focus groups after 3 months. All interviewees used the approach in their own way, and identified challenges in its use but In-the-Picture was seen as relevant and valuable by all the participants, producing changes in thinking and practice, whilst proving flexible and simple to use. The study also exemplified how current early intervention working practices in England limit the opportunity to engage with the child’s perspective and how practitioners value having the opportunity to do so.

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