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Communicating Effectively with Vulnerable Children and Young People

Discover tools and techniques to engage effectively with vulnerable children and young people.

17,859 enrolled on this course

Selection of resources used in direct work with children
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    4 hours

Learn child-centred communication strategies to encourage children to talk

Communicating effectively with vulnerable children and young people is not always easy. Despite practitioners and carers knowing this is an important area of their work, research shows that practice is not always as effective as it could be.

This course will enable you to improve your communication skills through techniques which place the child at the heart of the interaction. You’ll examine why a child may become vulnerable and reflect upon the barriers to communication. You’ll also explore activities from pre-verbal to adolescent stages which encourage children to share their feelings.


  • Week 1

    The pre-verbal child

    • Introduction

      Our first activity introduces the course. We'll think about our own communication with children, and what might make children 'vulnerable'. We'll also introduce some important sources of help and support.

    • Behaviour and development: the world of the pre-verbal child

      In this activity we investigate the behaviour and development of very young children

    • Theory: What is the pre-verbal child feeling?

      Here we consider what babies think and feel. We'll try to 'think like a baby' - it’s important that we really understand what it’s like as a lived experience for the baby, and to see the world from the baby’s eyes.

    • Safeguarding: Risks and vulnerabilities of the pre-verbal child

      In thi activity we think about safeguarding for pre-verbal children. We'll consider the idea of 'attachment', the importance of communication, and supervision and support.

  • Week 2

    The pre-school child

    • Behaviour: The world of the pre-school child

      In this activity we think about the behaviour of pre-school children - in particular, looking at angry and disruptive behaviour.

    • Development: Communication with the pre-school child

      Here we think about the development milestones of pre-school children, and discuss the importance of play in a child's development. [Image by Steven Depolo, Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/) CC BY 2.0.]

    • Theory: What is the pre-school child feeling?

      In this activity we consider the transition from a home setting to nursery or school. We'll also return to think more about angry behaviour in this age group.

    • Safeguarding: Risks and vulnerabilities of the pre-school child

      In this acitvity we turn to safeguarding issues. We'll also look again at behaviour, viewing it as a form of communication that can help when we think about safeguarding.

  • Week 3

    The primary school child

    • Behaviour: The world of the primary school child

      Here we investgate the behaviour of primary school children. In particular, we'll look at sadness and anxiety in children of this age.

    • Development: Communication with the primary school child

      In this activity we think about development of primary or junior school children, particularly in relation to social skills and communication. We also consider different 'tools' that we can use to help our communication.

    • Theory: What is the primary school child feeling?

      In this activity we introduce the use of simulations in child protection, and think about the importance of seeking to understand the lived exeriences of children.

    • Safeguarding: Risks and vulnerabilities of the primary school child

      Here we'll begin by looking at the emotion card technique as an effective way of communication with a vulnerable child. We'll also think about increasing exposure to the online world and the safeguarding issues this raises.

  • Week 4

    The young person 11+

    • Behaviour: The world of the young person

      In our first activity this week we consider the behaviour of young people, looking in particular at withdrawal.

    • Development: Communication with the young person

      Here we think about effecive communication techniques with young people. We draw on the experience of professionals, and also take a particular look at communication with young people who have experienced trauma.

    • Theory: What is the young person feeling?

      In this activity we think about what young people are feeling - in particular, we'll explore the importance of building rapport for effective communication with vulnerable young people.

    • Safeguarding: Risks and vulnerabilities of the young person

      Here we turn to safeguarding issues, and in particular consider mental health issues in young people.

    • Conclusion

      We bring the course to a close with an opportunity for you to complete a peer-reviewed assignment, and summarise what we've learned.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

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Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Reflect upon and develop skills in communicating with vulnerable children and young people, raising the profile of this essential area of child welfare and wellbeing
  • Explore a child-centred perspective to help facilitate more effective communication with the children and young people for whom we are responsible
  • Explain that improving our communication with children and young people requires consideration of specific activities and skills which facilitates this communication – it is more than just talking with them
  • Discuss some helpful approaches, tools and techniques which may be appropriate for the pre-verbal child through to adolescents
  • Engage with and reflect upon material from award winning child protection simulations to reflect upon how we can improve our communication with vulnerable children and young people

Who is the course for?

The course is aimed at anyone working with vulnerable children and young people. It is also suited to foster carers keen to improve their communication skills.

Who will you learn with?

I lecture on the MA Advanced Child Protection programme at the University of Kent, UK. Qualified in Law and Social Work, I am passionate about promoting effective child protection policy and practice.

I am a trainer at the centre for child protection at the University of Kent.
I am co--facilitating the course 'Effective communication with vulnerable children.' with Dr Aravinda Kosaraju.

Who developed the course?

The University of Kent

The University of Kent, the UK’s European university, is one of the country’s most dynamic universities. Established in 1965, it now has 19,850 students studying at its various campuses.

Learning on FutureLearn

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  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
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  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
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  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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