Student voice

All nurse training should cover communication with children who have learning disabilities

Bespoke training could benefit children's nursing students and children with learning disabilities

Bespoke training could benefit children's nursing students and children with learning disabilities

Picture: iStock

Throughout children's nurse training students are told how vital forming strong communication skills is to building a therapeutic relationship with a child or young person and their families.

However, one limitation to this otherwise thorough education is the lack of training in building such relationships with children who have learning or developmental disabilities

Non-verbal communication models, such as SOLER, are excellent in this regard.

SOLER stands for ‘sit squarely, open posture, lean towards each other, eye contact, relax’. But how do you achieve these with a child or young person who can’t make eye contact or understand social communication cues?

Style of language

During training students are encouraged to adapt their styles of language for each individual and prompt conversation.

But what if the child or young person cannot speak or understand spoken language, or uses other communication methods, such as the Picture Exchange Communication System or the sign language Makaton?

Introducing play therapists has been a much-needed step forward in this context, but their introduction into hospitals can inhibit children’s nurses from learning adaptive skills of play, distraction and communication.

Bespoke programme

At my university, a team of passionate third-year learning disability students are tackling these issues by forming the learning disability student champions training initiative.

They have created a bespoke programme of training predominantly aimed at students who are not studying on the learning disability nursing field.

They can help provide training in specific communication methods, including Makaton, behaviour and sensory awareness, and in making reasonable adjustments.

All registered children’s nurses and children’s nursing students should have the skills to help patients with learning disabilities.

By making appropriate training available to nurses we can ensure that the care people with learning disabilities receive is the same as that received by anyone else.

About the author

Christoper_SteeleChris Steele is a third-year children’s nursing student at Edge Hill University, Lancashire

This article is for subscribers only