Who’s in the driving seat?

The role of the professional in maximising independence

Our long term aim is to maximise children’s opportunities and enable them to take their part in society as independently as possible.  Maximising independence is one of the main yet complex roles of professionals working with children with any learning need.  To what extent do you understand your role in doing this? Do you perceive your role as protector, helper, or as facilitator, skill developer or skill enhancer?

Our aim is for children to reach their potential, but in our quest to do this when high levels of support are often necessary; we can inadvertently tread a fine line, in danger of over supporting, enabling dependence and possibly a culture of learned helplessness, rather than independence?

Do you always decide how a child is to complete a task?

Do you ask the child, would they like to be helped, before intervening? Do you ever stand back and let the child make mistake, allowing them to be challenged and find their own solution? Do you feel there is an expectation placed upon you by others to intervene immediately? How do other professionals perceive your role in maximising the child’s independence? Do you think your role in this is understood?

Equally, how does the child perceive your role? Do you think there is an expectation that the task will be done for them by you, or, do you think they consider you as someone who will support them to develop skills and abilities at a task?  Do you think the child recognises the importance of becoming independent? For a child always used to receiving a high level of support, does gaining their independence hold any significance? What about the children with limited communication skills – how can they be supported to be independent?

Perhaps a good starting point in reflecting upon this is a shared understanding by the professionals working with the child of ‘who is in the driving seat.’  Who sits where in relation to the child and what is the role that each professional plays in maximising the child’s independence. There are times when the professional may need to temporarily take the driving seat position, or take on the role of dual control operator whilst skills and tasks are taught and confidence is developed.

Top Tips

  • Ensure the child has a ‘voice.’ Involve them in planning their support. Support them to recognise the tasks they can do independently and those which they may need help with
  • Support the child to take positive steps forward, to plan how they can reach their own goals
  • Plan and deliver appropriate intervention and independent access programmes to support the child in reaching these goals successfully
  • Build in time for the child to celebrate, reflect and measure their progress and success
  • Reflect on your role, plan your own objectives to help the child maximise their independence further, regularly review your progress towards doing this