Emerging Minds
1hr 30mins

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

About the course

Child-centred and communication-focused practice with children with disability explores strategies that support the mental health of children with disability aged 0–12 years. It focuses on two broad approaches that can help you understand and respond to children with disability in ways that support their social and emotional wellbeing:

  • Child-centred practice is about seeing the ‘whole child’. This approach values the child as an individual with their own strengths, values and interests.
  • Communication-focused practice provides children with disability with the opportunity to express their hopes, concerns, preferences and values. It prioritises the expression of the child’s social and emotional development needs and works with the child and family to overcome any communication challenges.

This course builds on the Emerging Minds foundation course, Understanding child mental health and disability, which outlines why it’s important to use child-centred, communication-focused approaches to consider the mental health of children with disability. It also explores how these approaches can reduce children’s risk of developing mental health concerns. We recommend you complete the foundation course before starting this course.

Who is this course for?

This course is suitable for all practitioners who work with children and families, across a range of settings. It will help you to better incorporate approaches to your work that promote the mental health and wellbeing of children with disability.

Learning aims/outcomes

This course will help you to develop:

  • the values and strategies involved in child-centred and communication-focused practice with children with disability
  • the skills to help children with disability engage in conversations about their needs, interests and goals; and
  • the ability to help children express their hopes, values, concerns and preferences through communication-focused approaches.


It is estimated that this course will take you approximately one-and-a-half hours to complete, including reading the material, completing the reflective activities and watching the videos.


As you work through the course, it’s important to be aware of your own emotional responses. Please follow the self-care tips below and seek help if needed:

  • We do not recommend undertaking the entire course in one sitting. Give yourself some breaks. Even if you don’t feel that you need a break, it’s a good idea to take one anyway and come back later.
  • Be aware of your emotions as you progress through the course, and take action if you are starting to feel stressed or upset. For example, consider taking a break and doing something for yourself that you enjoy.
  • Be aware of your emotional responses after you complete the course.

If at any point you find you are struggling, please talk with your supervisor, seek help, or call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, or SANE Australia on 1800 18 7263.


For the purposes of this course, the term parent encompasses the biological and adoptive parents of a child, as well as individuals who have chosen to take up a primary or shared responsibility in raising that child.

Social and emotional wellbeing refers to the way a person thinks and feels about themselves and others. It incorporates behavioural and emotional strengths and is a facet of child development.1

In broad terms, social and emotional wellbeing is the foundation for physical and mental health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It is a holistic concept which results from a network of relationships between individuals, family, kin and Community. It also recognises the importance of connection to Land, culture, spirituality and ancestry, and how these affect the individual.2

‘Social and emotional wellbeing’ is also used by some people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, who may have differing concepts of mental health and mental illness.3

Social and emotional development involves the development of skills required to:

  • identify and understand one’s feelings
  • read and understand the emotional states of other people
  • manage strong emotions and how they are expressed
  • regulate behaviour
  • develop empathy
  • establish and maintain relationships.4


This course draws on the latest research, clinical insights, and the lived experience of our child and family partners. We’d like to thank the professionals and families who played an integral role in shaping this course, generously offering their time, wisdom and unique perspectives.

A quick guide to Emerging Minds Learning

Watch the following video for a quick guide on how to navigate Emerging Minds Learning courses.


  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2012). Social and emotional wellbeing: development of a Children’s Headline Indicator. Cat. no. PHE 158. Canberra: AIHW.
  2. Commonwealth of Australia. (2017). National strategic framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ mental health and social and emotional wellbeing. Canberra: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, p.6.
  3. Everymind. (2020). Understanding mental health and wellbeing. Newcastle: Everymind.
  4. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2009). A picture of Australia’s children. Cat. no. PHE 112. Canberra: AIHW.

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