Resources: The Greater Me Cards
I first came across Leanna’s work during my training to become an educational psychologist. We both share a strong interest in supporting children and young people with chronic health conditions in schools to achieve their potential.
Often, there is a lack of understanding of how managing a chronic condition can impact daily life, learning and mental wellbeing. The barriers in schools are frequently created by a lack of awareness and understanding. At the same time, children and young people with health conditions may not wish to disclose information about their condition, may not be given the opportunity to reflect on and discuss their needs and rights or may simply find it too challenging to have structured conversations about themselves.
Although my initial interest in self-advocacy skills stemmed from exploring health related needs in schools, I soon realised that The Greater Me Cards are designed in a way that can enable any children or young people with or without additional needs to reflect on and discuss their experiences, needs and rights. The cards are separated into core and exploratory categories. The core categories relate to key ideas or constructs about self and are future-orientated:
- This is me
- Future me
- Actions for me
Cards in the seven exploratory categories can be selected based on the goal of the conversation. The categories are:
- Feelings about me
- Talking about me
- Helping myself
- Others who help me
- Others who are not helping me
- Rights or entitlements for me
- Asking for what helps me
All categories consist of multiple cards containing three questions each. Some of the questions refer to a ‘need’ and can be perceived as more specific (e.g. “Who could help me write about or explain my need?” – Category: Talking about me) Others are more generic and can be used to encourage self-reflection and self-advocacy (e.g. What do I already know about my rights and entitlements? – Category Rights or entitlements for me…)
When I used the cards, I completed flowcharts based on the young person’s responses and highlighted areas that may need further exploration. There is helpful advice in the booklet accompanying the cards on how to manage conversations and record responses.
Self-advocacy is a crucial skill for children and young people in today’s society. Reflecting on one’s own needs and rights, things that are helpful, and others that are not, are key to achieve potential and become independent adults. Providing support in a way that improves autonomy and allows individuals to directly participate in planning and implementation is empowering. It is important to consider what children and young people want to receive and how they want to receive it. By encouraging children and young people to participate in goal setting and determining strategies, we can hopefully contribute towards sustaining change.
Well informed adults working with children and young people can become key in advocating for an individual and in considering how school environments and systems can be best adapted to meet individual needs. For adults to become well informed, structured, in-depth conversations will be needed considering various perspectives. The Greater Me Cards cards provide a valuable structure and thought-provoking questions for such conversations.