Tag Archives: carolyn blackburn

Report from International Society on Early Intervention: Children’s Rights and Early Intervention, Aula Magnum Auditorium, Stockholm 8-10 June 2016

Written by Dr Carolyn Blackburn, Research Fellow in Early Childhood Studies, HELS carolyn@blackbu5

The International Society on Early Intervention holds a major conference very three to four years. This years’ conference focused on the rights of all children to develop to their full potential and to participate without barriers in all aspects of society Encouraging and supporting the inclusion of children with developmental delays and disabilities in natural environments, including family settings, child care, and preschool programs, is at the core of maximizing children’s rights. Indeed, the concept of full participation is consistent with two United Nations treaties that address these rights: Convention on the Rights of the Child and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The conference was dedicated to Ulf Janson who dedicated, devoted much of his professional life to promoting the rights of young children with disabilities, understanding the nature of social inclusion, and advocating for the full inclusion of all children and their families and Franz Peterander, Ph.D. Professor, Ludwig-Maximilians University reminded us of his commitment to ECI.

1A tribute to Professor Ulf Janson from Franz Peterander

In this conference, early intervention was proposed as a basic right of all vulnerable children, and was explored from many perspectives. Issues related to access, equity, quality, and accountability were considered to be paramount. Strengthening families, training professional personnel, promoting social-emotional development, conducting reliable, valid, and culturally appropriate assessments, exploring issues related to institutional care and deinstitutionalization, examining the impact, prevention, and treatment of trauma, abuse, and neglect, testing and evaluating new strategies and techniques to promote a child’s development to the fullest, and developing approaches to enhance social inclusion were among the topics included. The development and evaluation of policies in individual countries or regions within countries to ensure that early intervention is among the rights of young children provided an important context.

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Children and young people from Adolf Fredick’s Music School opened the conference with an assertion that ‘Children Rule the World’

The conference opened with an inspirational and moving performance from Adolf Fredrik’s Music School Youth Chorus. Following this, there were opening addresses from Anders Gustavsson, Ph.D. Professor, Stockholm University, Astrid Söderbergh Widding, Ph.D, President, Stockholm University and Mike Guralnick. During his address Mike announced Barry Carpenter’s recent award of Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition to his service to the field of Special Education Needs. Barry is an Independent Education Consultant from the UK and Carolyn has worked with Barry on research projects and publications.

The conference proceeded with plenary and parallel sessions focussed on a wide range of topics that were provided by and for 600 delegates from 55 countries. In addition delegates were invited to a wine and canapés at the Stockholm Town Hall where Nobel Peace Prizes are awarded.

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Mike Guralnick described the conference as a landmark event in early intervention

Mike Guralnick, Chair of ISEI, described the conference as a landmark event in Early Intervention, stressing that there is currently a humanitarian crisis for vulnerable children. He explained that we need a systems based approach to services which must be coordinated within a team and work with parents. There needs to be universal agreement that every child has a right to early intervention.

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Professor Ăkesson talked about growing up in Sweden

Professor Eva Björck Åkesson talked about an ecological transactional model and a biopsychosocial perspective which was focused on the preschool as an environment for participation, interaction, and development in the context of early intervention in Sweden. She explained that engagement and togetherness needs to be further researched and we need to be solution oriented, as there are many challenges to overcome in the field of early intervention.

Dr. Emily Baron Vargas talked about Building Sustainable National Systems for Early Childhood Intervention from her work at the RISE Institute that assists nations to develop strategic plans, systems, and programs for early childhood intervention (ECI) and hosts the Early Childhood Development (ECD) Task Force of the Global Partnership on Children with Disabilities.

Dr. Pia Rebello Britto (Global Chief and Senior Advisor, Early Childhood Development, UNICEF, New York) urged us to take Early Childhood Interventions into the sustainable development era. She argued that all children need good nutrition, stimulation and safety and protection in order to thrive. However, significant numbers of children around the world do not experience these basic human rights, which leads to unmet human potential. It is the role of the early childhood intervention community to change this. She challenged us to mobilise resources and raise the profile of this with policy makers.

6Dr. Pia Britto argued that all children need good nutrition, stimulation and safety and protection in order to thrive

There were a series of Master Lectures provided by international speakers on a wide range of EI subjects. A number of members of Eurlyaid attended and presented at the conference.

I presented two parallel sessions on a) Young children’s use of private speech in early years settings from my PhD findings and b) Applying relational pedagogy and professional love to early childhood intervention services

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Carolyn Blackburn presenting findings from her Churchill Fellowship

The full programme for the conference can be found here https://depts.washington.edu/isei/ISEI_Program.pdf. The next conference will be held in Sydney in 2019.

Researching with young and developmentally young children – ethical considerations, dilemmas and compromises

Written by Dr. Carolyn Blackburn, Early Childhood Studies

One of the most challenging considerations when researching with young and developmentally young children is the question of gaining children’s consent to participate in research and their perspectives on the topic under study. Issues relate to the age at which children can realistically understand what they’re being asked to participate in as well as consideration of their cognitive and linguistic ability to give consent. Linked to this are the inevitable power relationships that inhere in research inquiry that involves adult researchers and child participants. This is an ethical consideration that I have pondered on and deliberated over considerably in the numerous projects I’ve undertaken.

Within the UK, the term ‘child’ means anyone below the age of 18 years. The 1948 United Nations Convention on Human Rights and the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (United Nations, 1989) granted rights to children between the ages of birth to eighteen to have their wishes known, listened to and respected. The dilemma for researchers is that the perceived ability of a child to give consent will depend not just on an individual child’s chronological age, but also on their level of understanding, particularly if they are experiencing a developmental delay or disorder. Requiring high levels of understanding for a valid consent, however, could operate to exclude research with children (particularly those with SEND) unless an adult has consented on their behalf (Mason, 2004).

Whilst on the one hand researchers need to develop ways of engaging children in a wide range of different circumstances, including those with SEND, on the other hand in order to obtain high-quality information, they must also ensure that children’s rights are safeguarded (Mason, 2004). In this respect, young children are surrounded by adults who have a legal responsibility to act as ‘gatekeepers’, safeguarding them from outside influences, such as researchers, and arguably guarding their free choice of whether or not to participate in research (Mason, 2004). Children of all ages are subject to the control of those who have parental responsibility for their welfare and safeguarding. Legally, researchers who wish to include young children who are not considered mature enough (chronologically or developmentally) to make their own decision about participation must obtain the agreement of a least one person who has parental responsibility for the child (Mason, 2004).

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Alderson (2004) acknowledged that consent is a key issue in research with children which raises hard, often unresolved, questions (Alderson, 2004). For example, there is no simple answer to the question of when children are old enough to give consent. Much depends on their prior experiences within the social, cultural and historical contexts in which they grow and develop. This poses an ethical dilemma for researchers, which requires reflection. Denzin reminds of our primary obligation as researchers that is ‘,. always to the people we study, not to our project or to a larger discipline. The lives and stories that we hear and study are given to us under a promise, that promise being that we protect those who have shared them with us’ (Denzin, 1989:83).

Fine and Sandstrom (1988: 46) urged that researchers provide children with an explanation of their involvement as ‘… children should be told as much as possible.. their age should not diminish rights, although their level of understanding must be taken into account in the explanations that are shared with them.’ Young children can be quite demonstrative in expressing their views, even if they do not verbally reject a researcher’s presence or questions. They can, for example, move away from a person they do not wish to be near (Aubrey et al., 2000), refuse to answer questions, change the topic of conversation or in extreme cases be physically aggressive if they feel particularly unhappy about situations. Certainly Flewitt (2005) found that children as young as three years old were ‘competent and confident enough to grant or withdraw consent – with some more outspoken and enquiring than their parents.’

The decision to adopt an ongoing process of assent whereby the child’s acceptance of the researcher within the setting can be taken as assent to participate in the research is sometimes considered appropriate where children have severe cognitive impairments. However, assent is not a term which sits comfortably with all researchers, some of whom argue that it may be used where children are simply too afraid, confused or ignored to refuse (see Alderson and Morrow, 2011). This indirect approach for assent/dissent has however, been successfully used within studies involving children with developmental delays/disorders (Blackburn, 2014; Brooks, 2010) and this may be for now the compromise that I will live with.

As far as gaining children’s perspectives within the research is concerned, I’ve really enjoyed working with Victoria Kinsella on one of the music projects to find ways of observing children’s involvement and engagement within projects when they have profound and multiple learning difficulties, and I’m looking forward to seeing the results of that, but I’ll leave her talk about that project at some point in the future.

 

References

Alderson, P. and Morrow, V. (2011) The Ethics of Research with Children and Young People: A Practical Handbook London: Sage

Alderson, P. (2004) Ethics in Fraser, S., Lewis, V., Ding, S., Kellett, M. and Robinson, C. (Eds) Doing Research with Children and Young People. London: Sage Publications pp 97-112

Aubrey, C., David, T., Godfrey, R. and Thompson, L. (2000) Early Childhood Educational Research: Issues in methodology and Ethics. Oxon: Routledge

Blackburn, C. (2014) The policy-to-practice context to the delays and difficulties in the acquisition of speech, language and communication in the first five years. Unpublished PhD Thesis, Birmingham: Birmingham City University

Brooks, T. (2010). Developing a learning environment which supports children with profound autistic spectrum disorders to engage as effective learners. Unpublished PhD Thesis. Institute of Education, University of Worcester: Worcestershire.

Denzin, N.K. (1989) Interpretive biography London, Sage

Flewitt, Rosie (2005). Conducting research with young children: some ethical considerations. Early Child Development and Care, 175(6), pp. 553–565.

Fine, G.A. and Sandstrom, K.L. (1988) Knowing Children: Participant Observation with Minors. Qualitative Research Methods Series 15 Beverly Hill, CA: Sage

Mason, J. (2004) The Legal Context in Fraser, S., Lewis, V., Ding, S., Kellett, M. and Robinson, C. (Eds) Doing Research with Children and Young People. London: Sage Publications