Tag Archives: Childhood

Promoting children’s well-being, right to make choices and engage in playful activities in restricted environments through music and singing

Dr. Carolyn Blackburn, Senior Research Fellow at CSPACE, is currently leading a project funded by Froebel Trust (January 2017 – May 2018) to look at the Singing Medicine at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. In this post, she shares some updates from her findings:

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Arts, Health and Wellbeing and Fancourt (2017) highlight a wide range of possible ways in which the arts can support health and wellbeing of individuals, communities and societies in the context of contemporary models of health.  This includes helping with specific identified conditions as well as promoting well-being, healthy behaviours and social engagement.  Included in the broad definition of arts are signing and musical activities as well as performing arts such dance, drama, juggling and visual art such as painting and drawing.  Associated with the concept of social prescribing (which seeks to address health and wellbeing from a holistic perspective using a range of non-clinical interventions), participatory arts projects are growing in number in the UK (APPG on Arts, Health and Wellbeing 2017).

More and more people now appreciate that arts and culture can play a valuable part in helping tackle some of the most challenging social and health conditions. Active participation in the visual and performing arts, music and dance can help people facing a lonely old age, depression or mental illness; it can help maintain levels of independence and curiosity and, let’s not forget, it can bring great joy and so improve the quality of life for those engaged“. (Lord Bichard of Nailsworth, 2016 cited in APPG on Arts, Health and Wellbeing, 2017b: 47)

In relation to the benefits of participating in music and singing in health settings, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing (2017) revealed that:

Participatory arts in children’s hospitals provide a pleasurable diversion from the anxiety of treatment and the boredom of long waiting times.”

In terms of children’s rights to engage in playful activities and make choices, the United Conventions on the Rights of the Child Article 31 states that Every child has the right to relax, play and take part in a wide range of cultural and artistic activities and Article 12 states that every child has the right to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously. This right applies at all times, for example during immigration proceedings, housing decisions or the child’s day-to-day home life.

Given the evidence reported above, I have been working on a timely project which focuses one aspect of music and singing in healthcare settings; the benefits of musical games for children with a range of conditions at a Birmingham Children’s Hospital (BCH) in terms of their right to makes choices, engage in playful activities and their overall wellbeing with Ex Cathedra’s Singing Medicine service.

The project has been running since January 2017, and data collection involves interviews with parents and health professionals as well as non-participant researcher observations of singing medicine sessions carried out by myself.

Themes that arose from interviews included:

  • The important characteristics of the Singing Medicine Vocal Tutors;
  • Contribution to children’s emotions;
  • Contribution to child/family experiences of hospital;
  • Contribution to children’s development and learning (including neurodevelopment);
  • Spiritual and moral dimensions;
  • Contribution to medical care (including contribution to the wellbeing of health professionals);
  • Contextual aspects of the service; and
  • Contribution to family life, patterns and structures.
Participants commented that:
“Enables children to take a positive memory away from hospital, rather than remembering only that they had blood samples taken, they might also remember the pleasant experience from the Singing Medicine people”
“Some of the children have unpleasant, intrusive and painful medical interventions for example haemodialysis – the Singing Medicine programme is something they choose rather than something they have to do or have to have done to them”

The potential contribution to children’s neurodevelopment is an important finding since it was mentioned by participants that neurodevelopment is an aspect of healthcare provision often omitted due to the understandable need to focus on acute care and patient survival and recovery.

From observations there was evidence of:

  • Choices for children;
  • Following children’s lead;
  • Facilitating medical care;
  • Building memorable moments for families; and
  • Focussing on children’s holistic development.

These findings demonstrate the benefit of participating in the service for children, their family members and health professionals supporting them. The findings can be considered in light of significant evidence from the APPGAHW on the benefits of the arts more broadly and singing and music specifically in health settings, and also in light of the United Conventions on the Rights of the Child.

Myself and several of the Vocal Tutors from Ex Cathedra presented a workshop at the Annual Health Research Conference at BCU ‘Creative Caring’ in January of this year. The session was well received by colleagues in Health and suggestion was made to embedded the research findings within many of programmes in Nursing. The project’s approach to research with the Vocal Tutors (rather than no them) was commented.

In February, I will also presenting at the BECERA annual conference ‘Creativity and Critical Thinking in the Early Years’.

This project will finish in May 2018. A final project report will become available later in the Spring.

There is a current petition for ‘Singing on Prescription’ to be adopted by the NHS. please sign if you have time.

References:

  • APPG on Arts, Health and Wellbeing (2017a) Policy Briefing   Arts Engagement and Wellbeing July 2017 [Online http://www.artshealthandwellbeing.org.uk/appg-inquiry/ accessed 11.12.17]
  • All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing (2017b) Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing [Online http://www.artshealthandwellbeing.org.uk/ accessed 12.12.17]
  • Fancourt, D. (2017) Arts in Health, Designing and Researching Interventions. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Carolyn

Carolyn has worked in childcare and education for nearly 20 years mainly in primary education and early years.  She has established a reputation for supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities. She led a number of national and international projects investigating children, family and education. Her recent work include include a project about young children’s musical interactions called Communicative Musicality and an international project that seeks to explore relationship-based early intervention services for young children with complex needs in collaboration with the world-leading Champion Centre.

Carolyn is particularly interested in interdisciplinary research and the ways in which researchers from diverse disciplines can seek a shared understanding of child and family work so that a richer, more diverse research culture can be envisioned. Carolyn believes that when professionals work together and communicate well with each other children and families benefit.

Following Carolyn’s work on ResearchGate.

Parenting in the digital age – what age should children have a smartphone?

In this second post of the series on ‘Parenting in the digital age’, Dr. Jane O’Connor continues  to explore the relationship between children’s rights and digital technology.  

Young people and mobile phones

I recently had the following conversation with my soon to be 7 year old son that I think will sound familiar to many parents with children of a similar age:
‘Mum can I have a smartphone for my birthday?’
‘No’
‘Why not?’
‘Because you’re too young.’
‘When can I have one?’
‘When you’re older,’
‘How old?’
‘Oh I don’t know, twelve, maybe ten.’
‘That’s ages away.’
‘Well you are not allowed to have one until you are ten…it’s the law.’

It isn’t the law of course, but I’m beginning to wish it was.

Limiting our children’s access to digital technology is beginning to feel more and more akin to King Canute trying desperately to hold back the waves, and the ubiquitous presence of smartphones in ever younger hands makes it increasingly difficult to justify resisting the trend. On average, children are getting their first smartphones around age 10, according to the research firm Influence Central, down from age 12 in 2012. According to a recent survey of parents by Internet Matters the vast majority of children aged 8 to 11 in Britain now own a smartphone, with Newcastle and Nottingham having the very highest rates of ownership in this age group at 90.5% and 90% respectively. Many schools now ban smartphones from lessons and playgrounds, but the issue is still a pertinent one for parents to navigate, weighing up the pros and cons of the peace of mind of being able to be in constant contact with their children, with the attention grabbing and potentially disturbing diversions of the phone. The following quote from the US based Common Sense media website summarises why the decision to give your child a phone is not to be taken lightly and deserves careful thought:

when you hand your children cell phones, you’re giving them powerful communication and media-production tools. They can create text, images, and videos that can be widely distributed and uploaded to websites instantly. Parents really need to consider whether their kids are ready to use their phones responsibly and respectfully’.

Perhaps it is not about the age of the child after all, but about the kind of child they are and how they want to use their phone? I know my son just wants to play games on it, and so feel no compunction about delaying the acquisition of yet another screen based distraction, but clearly ownership is becoming the norm for children not much older than he is now. As well as protecting children, as parents we also surely have a responsibility to try and ensure that our children are not left out and are socially included. Furthermore, is it not hypocritical in the extreme for adults to use smartphones for ever increasing amounts of time and reasons and yet not want children to emulate that behaviour?

The historian and mythographer Marina Warner takes a broader view of the futility of trying to keep childhood and adulthood separate by restricting children’s access to the adult world. In her essay ‘Little angels little devils: keeping childhood innocent’ she argues that:

Children aren’t separate from adults…they can’t live innocent lives on behalf of adults…Children are our copy in little…in affluent cities of the West, they’ll wail for expensive trainers with the right label like their friends.'(1994: p48)

And today, clearly, they’ll wail for their own smartphones.

This desire to hold on to childhood innocence seems to be at the heart of parental concerns around children owing smartphones, but is that innocence, as Warner claims, simply a myth?

Young person and mobile phone

Related links and publications
https://www.commonsensemedia.org
http://influence-central.com/
https://www.internetmatters.org/
Warner, M (1994) Managing monsters – The Reith Lectures. London: Vintage.

Jane O’Connor

Dr Jane O’Connor is a Reader in Childhood Studies at Birmingham City University and is currently leading ‘Technobabies’, an international research project exploring parents’ perspectives on the use of touchscreen digital devices by 0-3 year olds. Jane started her professional life as a primary school teacher and moved into research due to her interests in constructions of childhood and children’s relationship with the media. Jane’s research interests include children and technology and children and celebrity.

Rethinking Childhood Cluster: Dr. Susan Foster-Cohen

Dr. Susan Foster-Cohen is the Director of the Champion Centre and Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Canterbury. She is engaged in active research into the outcomes of parent-partnership interventions at the Centre. She has also been a member of a research team at the University of Canterbury exploring the long-term outcomes of prematurity, with a particular focus on communication and language development. She has held academic positions in universities in the UK, USA, France and New Zealand and has published widely on language development in both pure and applied journals and books. Susan joined us in a joint venture between the Rethinking Childhood Cluster and the Family Health Cluster on the 6th June to talk about:

sue

Bio-psycho-social consequences of premature birth: family and professional partnerships in early intervention

The short, medium and long-term impacts of premature birth on the infant, the mother, the family and their educational and social communities are the active subjects of research in a number of academic fields. Such research is revealing trends and likelihoods of developmental, educational, mental health and social consequences of prematurity that can, and must, be addressed in early intervention. Particularly difficult, however, is predicting which children will have which, or any, lasting consequences of their prematurity. This presents a challenge for health, education and social welfare practitioners to translate the research evidence into the best support for each child, the families that raise them, and the teachers that educate them. Susan’s talk reviewed the bio-psycho-social consequences of premature birth and then describde the multi-disciplinary support provided to children born prematurely, their families and their teachers at The Champion Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand. It focused on the challenges encountered in assessment, monitoring, and intervention; and the importance of developing families as ‘advocates for life’ for their children.

Approximately 50 – 60 delegates attended from across the country and from diverse disciplines including collaborative partners from BLISS charity and Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Positive feedback from delegates included comments such as:

“Thank you for organising this excellent event.  So much useful information for teaching and for my book. Also useful networking, I do hope that Barbara and I move our research idea forward. Thank you also for the delicious lunch.” (an HE Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood)

“Thank you for inviting us to the talk yesterday it was really fascinating. It was also fantastic to hear about the amazing programme Susan runs in New Zealand, I thought it really complemented some of the things Bliss believes in like having the family at the centre of the babies care.” (A charity Research Manager)

As a practising independent midwife, I found the event very illuminating. I will be using the knowledge gained (and revisited) in my work; especially in the postnatal period.

I focus on ‘growing and birthing healthy babies’. In this timely space, I place a large emphasis on supporting mothers (and their partners) to realise the critical importance of the antenatal period, enjoying good diet, exercise, and managing positive energies etc.

I look forward to the video and sharing this with my team. (a Mimosa Midwife)

What an excellent event, ands such a wonderful presentation I was like many in the audience bowled over and learnt such a lot.. Id be very happy to get involved in any future/potential research with BCU , around this field (health practitioner from Birmingham Children’s Hospital)

 

Dr. Foster-Cohen said of her visit to the UK:

“A true highlight of my trip was my visit to Birmingham City University and the chance to present my research work in prematurity and the model of professional service delivery for premature infants at the Champion Centre.

I was very impressed with the wide range of professional backgrounds in the audience that attended the lecture and extend my thanks to Dr. Carolyn Blackburn, my host, for promoting the importance of the path that premature infants take from the prenatal stage through early childhood. The questions at the lecture and the discussion afterwards over lunch made it clear that there is considerable intelligent interest in the needs of young children at BCU and a genuine contribution that I can make to the courses and training that it offers.

Dr. Blackburn’s visit to the Champion Centre on her Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship last year has opened up significant opportunities for collaborative research between us and I look forward to building on this first exchange of visits in the future.”

 

Meet the CSPACE Team – Eddie Hulbert

Name: Eddie HulbertEddie

Role at BCU: PhD Researcher and Graduate Teaching and Research Assistant

Research Interests: Family Learning, Adult Education, Literacy, Ethnicity

Research you are currently working on: My PhD is looking at Family Learning initiatives in Birmingham. My research questions are:

  • What does family learning mean to parents, children and practitioners?
  • What does best practice look like in different contexts?
  • How can best practice be implemented in all family learning institutions?
  • Can a framework for monitoring the benefits of family learning be established and embedded into institutional practice?

Research methodologies you are using: I am going to carry out case-studies of 3 Family Learning providers. I will use semi-structured interviews with families and practitioners and observations of learning sessions. I also plan to use Visual and Sensory ethnography and Discourse Analysis.

Current issues, thoughts and reflections on education & research: It is an exciting time to be within the School of Education at BCU as the school is expanding and the links between teaching and research are getting stronger!

Most influential research you have read/seen: Black Masculinities and Schooling: How Black Boys Survive Modern Schooling (Sewell, 1997)

Advice for new researchers: Don’t be afraid to try new and innovative techniques whilst carrying out your research.

Mini fact about you: I have a trainer addiction (currently on 18 pairs and counting!)

Supporting children born prematurely

Full blog written by Dr Carolyn Blackburn, Research Fellow in Early Childhood Studies, HELS carolyn@blackbu5

“At the Champion Centre in New Zealand children born prematurely attend integrated relationship-based early intervention services with their families where the parent-child relationship is promoted throughout therapy sessions. When I visited the Centre last year, the concepts of relational pedagogy and professional love were observable in therapy sessions”

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“Such research is revealing trends and likelihoods of developmental, educational, mental health and social consequences of prematurity that can, and must, be addressed in early intervention.”

Dr. Susan Foster-Cohen from the Champion Centre in NZ http://www.championcentre.org.nz/ will be visiting Birmingham City University to deliver an International Guest Lecture in June, 2016.  Places can be booked here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/bio-psycho-social-consequences-of-premature-birth

Dr. Jackie Musgrave visits the Childhood and Family Health Cluster

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

@blackbu5

In January in a joint initiative between the Rethinking Childhood Cluster and Family Health Cluster invited Dr. Jackie Musgrave from the Worcester University to talk about her PhD research on including children with Chronic Health Conditions in early years settings.jackie-musgrave-education-university-worcester_rdax_200x230 download

Jackie’s doctoral research brings together her professional and personal interests in children’s health and early education.  Her research explored the effects of chronic health conditions (asthma, anaphylaxis, diabetes, eczema and epilepsy) on young children’s inclusion in early childhood education and care.  The research methods included a postal questionnaire, interviews with practitioners and parents and observations of ‘DJ’ in his early years setting over the period of year.  ‘DJ’ has asthma, anaphylaxis and eczema.  The opportunity to observe ‘DJ’ gave the opportunity for a prolonged engagement to examine how these conditions affected his participation in his early childhood education and care.

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The aim of her talk was to give an overview of her doctoral research which explored how chronic health conditions, specifically anaphylaxis, asthma, diabetes, eczema and epilepsy, can impact on children’s health, as well as exploring how early years practitioners include children with these conditions. Her talk was attended by education and health staff.

A thoughtful discussion about the implictations for education and health practitioners followed her talk which highlighted the opportunities for and benefits of interdisciplinary training and practice.

Jackie also talked to Early Childhood Education Studies students about her work thereby enhancing the experiences of students at BCU.

 

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