Disability learning pathway

Emerging Minds, Australia, August 2022

Related to Disability

Resource Summary

Mental health is key to healthy development and lifelong wellbeing. It is shaped by a number of complex influences, including our environment and social conditions and the culture and public policies that shape them. While children with disability can and do experience positive mental health, they may require support to help them communicate preferences and challenges, and plan to overcome them.

Every child’s experience of disability will be different, depending on the nature of their disability and the extent to which they’re able to participate in the things that matter to them. We can all support the mental health of children with disability by looking beyond their diagnosis to understand their unique skills, hopes and needs, promoting the relationships, activities and experiences that are important to them, and advocating for systems and policies that are inclusive of all abilities.

The Disability learning pathway has been developed for you to support you in your work with children with disability and their families.

Resources to support your work

Emerging Minds has developed the Disability learning pathway which consists of online courses and resources to help different practitioners – from students and disability support workers, through to allied health professionals – to support children with disability and their families. These resources will help you to:

  • better understand the factors that influence the mental health, development and wellbeing of children with disability
  • encourage children’s agency by engaging them in decision-making processes
  • support children to identify and express their emotions
  • identify and promote children’s strengths, interests, preferences and know-how
  • recognise and support families as the experts in their child’s care.

The pathway includes online courses, podcasts, webinars and more. It has been created in collaboration with practitioners, academics, child and family services, child mental health experts, and the families of children with disability. Read on to discover more about each course, then follow the links to start learning today.

Explore our online disability courses

Understanding child mental health and disability

This foundation course explores mental health for children with disability aged 0–12 years. It will help you to identify the factors that support a child’s social and emotional wellbeing and introduce you to key concepts in disability-aware practice. It also describes the importance of considering the mental health of children with disability, and why these children may be more vulnerable to developing mental health concerns.

The course introduces three key approaches to positive practice with children with disability:

  • A child-centred approach is about recognising and responding to the child’s unique needs, hopes and preferences.
  • A family-focused approach involves recognising and supporting the child’s significant relationships, including those with their parents, siblings, carers and other trusted adults.
  • A communication-focused approach explores what a child might be trying to communicate through their behaviour, and how they could be supported to express their needs more effectively.

The information in this course provides a foundation for the practical strategies explored in the following two courses.

Child-centred and family-focused practice with children with disability

This course outlines strategies for supporting the important relationships in a child’s life using a child-centred and family-focused approach. This involves valuing and supporting the child’s connection to their parents and siblings and recognising the expertise of their family members.

Using video demonstrations featuring a fictional family and practitioner, the course introduces the three-step ART approach:

  • Acknowledgment prioritises a contextual understanding of and curiosity about a child with disability and their family members.
  • Relationships examines the most important connections in a child’s life. This step involves encouraging important adults to help children express themselves using appropriate social and communication methods.
  • Time is about helping families to both recognise and acknowledge their challenges, while planning ways to best support each other through difficult times.

Keeping the values, preferences, needs and views of all family members in mind will help you to effectively support the child you’re working with.

Child-centred and communication-focused practice with children with disability

This course looks at ways to support children with disability to express themselves safely and effectively. It centres on a communication-focused approach, which is about prioritising the expression of a child’s social and emotional development needs and working with the child and their family to overcome any communication challenges.

This course uses fictional practice demonstrations to explore the PATH framework:

  • Possibilities – what is the child trying to communicate?
  • Alternatives – how else can we meet this need?
  • Trying out – how can we go about trying a different approach?
  • Holistic – am I considering the child’s strengths as well as their difficulties?

By helping children with disability to develop alternative coping strategies and new ways of communicating their needs, you can support the mental health and wellbeing of the whole family.

Visit our online disability courses today:

Further disability-related resources and information:

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