Research methods for children with multiple needs: developing techniques to facilitate all children and young people to have 'a voice'

Vivian Hill*, Abigail Croydon, Scot Greathead, Lorcan Kenny, Rhiannon Yates, Elizabeth Pellicano

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: This study aimed to investigate the experiences of children and young people being educated in residential special schools, with a particular focus on how their rights and wellbeing were being promoted by their schools. Method: The study was conducted using participatory research principles and aimed to develop techniques and approaches that would support the inclusion of all children. Findings: The findings indicated that the techniques developed during this study helped to provide insight into the experiences of pupils with a wide range of special needs, and facilitated their voices. The piloting of a method that integrated ethnographic observation techniques with checklists adopted from the SCERTS framework (developed by Prizant and colleagues) provided important insights into the experiences and preferences of children with the greatest learning and communication needs, and is an approach worthy of further development. Limitations: The study was conducted over a very short time frame, one academic term, which influenced the time available to refine techniques and work with our young researchers' group. Whilst every residential special school in England was invited to participate, the sample was based on those schools that volunteered, many with good and outstanding Ofsted ratings. Therefore, the sample may not be fully representative of the range of experiences provided by residential special schools in England. Conclusions: The development of specific techniques to facilitate an understanding of the views and experiences of children who experience significant challenges in communication is possible. The knowledge, skills and expertise of educational psychologists and other professionals can be harnessed to respond creatively to this challenge and it is important to acknowledge the reciprocal value of professional practice and research skills.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-43
Number of pages18
JournalEducational and Child Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • residential special school
  • children’s voices
  • children’s rights
  • participatory research techniques
  • research methods for use with children with special needs


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