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The use of proxy respondents should not detract from efforts to help children express their own views.

Watch this video, in which a pupil is learning how to signal that she wants more.

  • Poster
A teacher sits with a boy and
                  helps him to take part in one of his reading interests

Where proxy respondents are used to advocate on behalf of a child, there are a number of potential problems:

  • The adult speaking on behalf of a child may put forward their own views, rather than those of the child. For example, advocates may overestimate the choices that pupils are able to make or the extent to which they feel included (see Rapley et al 1997).
  • The child may value different things from their adult advocate. For example, children with autism may have very different views from adults on the contribution that friendships make to the quality of their lives.
Triangulating caregivers
A teacher sits with a boy and
                  helps him to take part in one of his reading interests

One way to minimise the pitfalls associated with proxy respondents is to undertake a triangulation of proxy respondents' perceptions of the views of a particular child.

In triangulation, the views of different advocates, e.g. parents and teachers, are sought independently and then compared. Similar interpretations by different adults of a particular child's interests/views would give greater confidence in the validity of judgements.

Where the triangulation reveals that adults have different views about what a particular child likes or is good at, the reasons for this can be explored. Exploring such differences can yield completely new ways of understanding how, for example, a child is different at home and in school and suggest potential areas for development.

Creating opportunities from difference

Watch this video clip, which shows part of Sophia's review. Notice how various disagreements among those involved in Sophia's education and care lead to new opportunities for development.

Consider a situation in your own school where there has been disagreement about what a particular child likes/dislikes and what s/he can achieve, which had implications for that child's quality of life.

  • How did these differences of opinion arise?
  • What did you do/might you have done to address it?
  • Poster
Find out more

Rapley, M., Ridgeway, J. and Beyer, S. (1997) Staff:staff and staff:client reliability of the Schalock and Keith (1993) Quality of Life Questionnaire. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 42, 37-42.

Stancliffe, R. (1999) Proxy respondents and the reliability of the QOL-Q Empowerment factor. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 43, 185-93.