Your study level

We've preselected "All levels" for you, but you can change your study level at any time by choosing one of the options on this menu. Changing your study level will return you to the beginning of the module.

Pupil voice

Since those with PMLD were first formally involved in education in 1970, considerable time and effort has been expended on discussing pupil voice. School councils have often been mentioned, as in mainstream schools, but this would clearly be entirely tokenistic in special schools. Nonetheless, investing time in teaching those with PMLD to have a proactive voice, to be fully contingently aware in an interpersonal sense – 'My actions can have an effect upon you' – is time well spent.

It must be remembered, however, that pupil voices should have the right to say no as well as yes. Wilkinson (1994) refers to issues of control. It will be necessary to teach how and when they might gain that control.

A question of control

Issues of control are especially important for those who are not in control of their own lives, but who by necessity have others managing it. (Barber, 1994; Wilkinson, 1994; Collis and Lacey, 1996; Hewett and Nind, 1998; Imray, 2008).

This will naturally involve a great deal of sensitivity and reflection by teachers with the central question of 'Am I doing the right thing?' always to the fore. Teaching those with PMLD is particularly challenging simply because it is so easy for the teacher to take control, to be didactic, and to limit learning rather than expand it.

The right to say no

Perhaps the easiest way to avoid being didactic is to ask another question: 'Have I taught my pupils how to say no?' The ability to say no and for that no to be acted upon is something we all take for granted. But can the same be said for those with PMLD?

This goes hand in hand with teaching contingency awareness. The issue of control over everyday issues is a classic example of the holistic approach so strongly argued for in Routes for Learning (2006). There are many times when learners will not want to do things, touch things, taste things, be in certain places. If we are to teach the ability to say no, it is essential that learners are listened to and that their no is acted upon (Rawling, Dowse and Shaddock, 1995).

Passive partners

Particular attention has to be given to knowing and listening to those with PMLD. Ware (2003) argues very strongly that it is not sufficient just to know the child, since there is a strong tendency in caregiver/child interactions for:

  • The person with PMLD to be the passive partner;
  • The caregiver to be the dominant partner;
  • Comparatively few responses to be received from their caregivers;
  • Clashes between the person with PMLD and the caregiver (ie where both are 'speaking'
    at once).

Find out more (1)

Barber, M. (1994) Contingency Awareness: Putting Research into the Classroom in Coupe O'Kane, J. and Smith, B. (eds) Taking Control. London. David Fulton.

Collis, M. and Lacey, P, (1996). Interactive Approaches to Teaching. London. David Fulton.

Hewett, D, and Nind, M, (1998) Interaction in Action. London. David Fulton.

Imray, P. (2008) Turning the Tables on Challenging Behaviour. London. Routledge.

Miller, J. (1998) Personal Needs and Independence in Lacey, P, and Ouvry, C. People with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities. London. David Fulton.

Find out more (2)

Rawlingsm, M., Dowse, L., and Shaddock, A. (1995) Increasing the involvement of people with an intellectual disability in choice making situations: a practical approach. International Journal of Disability and Developmental Education. 42; pp137-153.

Routes for Learning (2006). Qualifications and Curriculum Group. DfE. Cardiff.

Ware, J. (2003) Creating a Responsive Environment.
London. David Fulton.

Wilkinson, C. (1994) Teaching Pupils with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties to Exert Control in Coupe O'Kane J and
Smith B (eds) Taking Control. London. David Fulton