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The unspoken consent...


This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, particularly when it comes to manual handling of children who are nonverbal. I’ve always witnessed adults being far more physical with children who are not able to verbally communicate, and until being an OT it is not something I have really thought about. When I say physical, I certainly don’t mean in an abusive manner, but rather through a physical gesture (pull or nudge) despite an obvious refusal. So my question is, is this a right or necessary move?

Of course if a child is in a dangerous situation, or their position poses a danger to others then a child would need to be moved using reasonable force. This idea of reasonable force is accepted throughout the teaching community, and as a parent I would certainly not be adverse to my child being removed from a situation if they were in danger. However, when does this idea of reasonable force come into play when a child is not able to verbally communicate? Should we be moving children who do not want to be moved? If their position does not pose a threat to themselves or others then are we going against unspoken consent? Should we, instead of moving a child to where we want them to go, be negotiating with them, communicating our commands in a format that they understand, and sanctioning refusal behaviour? Are we therefore respecting a child’s wishes, making consequences clear and empowering them to be active participants in their world?

When considering when or if to move a child who is nonverbal my questions are these - do they need to be moved? Could they be persuaded to move through behaviour management? Would you move a verbal child in the same situation?


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