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SEND Support Service (SSS): Listening to (and Recording) a Child’s Voice - WNC

SEND Support Service (SSS): Listening to (and Recording) a Child’s Voice - WNC logo


Listen to Me: Look at My Body Language

What Might This Look Like?

  • Am I hunched/relaxed?
  • Do I look tired?
  • Am I smiling/crying?
  • Am I being physical (throwing, hitting, etc.)?
  • Am I always very close to an adult?

How Can This Be Recorded?

“Sam looked uncomfortable today and hunched up in the corner. This might indicate that he is uncomfortable in his chair or maybe too hot/cold. Action: Staff to check that Sam is sitting in a comfortable chair and whether he is too hot/cold.”

“Sam was hitting other children today. This might be telling us that he needs help to share toys. Action: key worker to watch closely to try to understand what the behaviour is trying to Communicate. Key worker to use ‘Iceberg’ to see what needs teaching.”

Listen to Me: Am I Involved in Play?

What Might This Look Like?

  • Do I have enough toys to interest me?
  • Am I watching for a long time but not actually playing with things?
  • Am I always at the edge of a group?
  • Do I try to do something but give up easily?
  • Do I look bored?

How Can This Be Recorded?

“Emily went to a lot of different activities today but only stayed at them for a short time. This may indicate that she doesn't understand how to finish activities. Action: Staff to join Emily in play once she has started an activity to help her complete it.”

“Emily looked at some toys but then threw them on the floor. This might indicate that she is bored with the toys and needs different ones. Action: staff to check that Emily's toys are motivating and challenging for her.”

Listen to Me: What Isn’t Working for Me?

What Might This Look Like?

  • Am I upset when I have to leave my mum?
  • Do I get tired at the end of a session?
  • Do I always get cross at group time?
  • Do I get more grumpy if I can't go outside?
  • Can I follow the routines of the day without help?
  • Do I get upset if I am asked to do something I don't want to do?

How Can This Be Recorded?

"It was noticed that when Joe had to leave his mum, he became really distressed for 10 minutes. Joe may be telling us that he finds leaving his mum difficult and doesn't know what to do at the start of the day. Action: Key worker to 'meet and greet' and help Joe with a routine for the start of the day."

"When an adult asked Joe to clear up, he threw the paint on the floor. This might indicate that Joe is finding change difficult and needs to prepare for this visually. Action: Staff to give an advanced warning for stopping play/change and a visual 'first/then' board to be used to help him understand."

Listen to Me: Watch What I Am Doing… Am I Having Fun?

What Might This Look Like?

  • Do I look unhappy when you come near me?
  • Do I want to stop?
  • Do I look anxious when a new toy comes out?
  • Does my body language look relaxed when you play music?
  • Do I clench/tighten when you play lap games?
  • How Can This Be Recorded?

"Zoe showed a small smile when shown the fluffy fabric and made happy sounds. When the foil blanket came out, her eyes widened, and her mouth became still. Action: look for very small changes to Zoe's facial expressions. When she widens her eyes, she may be telling you she is anxious. Start with a small piece of foil blanket in her hand to let her try this first."

"Peter moved and danced to the music and tried to join in with the actions of the songs. Peter is showing us that he really likes music. Action: use music to motivate Peter. He could choose the songs using a song basket or photo cards. Start and end group time with music so that he wants to join the group.”

Listen to Me: What Do I Like / Dislike?

What Might This Look Like?

  • Do I put my hands easily in some things but pull them away for others?
  • Do I always stay at the trains when I come into the room?
  • Do I push people away when they try to join me?
  • Do I shout loudly when it's time to come in?
  • Do I bang my ears when everyone is in the room?

How Can This Be Recorded?

"Florence goes to the train set at the start of each session. She likes to move the train backwards and forwards, and the play becomes repetitive. This might indicate that Florence likes the trains but only knows one thing to do with them. Action: let Florence start with the trains, she likes these, and it helps to start the session well. Gradually introduce new resources to the train set to extend her play. You could try adding cars or people and show her how to play with them."

"Zenakai was observed flapping his hands and banging his ears at home-time. This might be telling us that the room is too noisy for him or that he doesn't know what is happening next. Action: when the room becomes noisy, find a quiet place for him to sit. Show him a photo of his mum too so that he knows she will be coming soon."

Listen to Me: What Could Be Better?

What Might This Look Like?

  • Do I get cross and throw things on the floor before completing them? Do I need you to break skills down into smaller steps for me?
  • Do you know how I can tell you what I want?
  • Do you know my signs?
  • Do I cry when my Mum leaves me? Do I need to know that somebody will look after me until she returns?
  • Do my feet reach the floor when I am on my chair? Do I look like I might fall off my chair?

How Can This Be Recorded?

"Josef was observed sitting at a table with his feet dangling from the chair. He needed to readjust himself a few times to keep upright and draw. This might indicate that he is uncomfortable in his chair. Action: Josef is unstable on his chair. Check that his feet can touch the floor to give him core stability - a box or small step should work."

"Anas cried a lot when his Mum left. Later on, he was settled and smiled when other children started singing. Anas may be telling us that he finds it difficult to separate from his Mum but likes singing. Action: make sure the same adult is with him at the start of the day and have his favourite toys ready in a box that he can see. You could try singing with him or playing music."

"Lily threw a ten-piece jigsaw puzzle on the floor after trying a few times to put the piece in. This might indicate that she is finding the jigsaw too hard, and it is frustrating for her. Action: make sure easier puzzles are out (just 3-4 pieces) so that she can succeed in this activity. If she still struggles to fit the pieces together, try a different toy, e.g. the tracks of a wooden train set that fit together."

Listen to Me: Can I Make Choices?

What Might This Look Like?

  • Do I reach and touch something I want?
  • Can I make happy sounds if I want something?
  • Do I choose best if you show me two things at a time?
  • Do I smile for 'yes' and turn away for 'no'?
  • Do I have a range of sounds? Do you know what they mean?

How Can This Be Recorded?

"An adult put Sarah's hand into a large bowl of soapy water, and she squealed with delight. She shouted when it was time to finish. Sarah is showing us by her sounds that she likes this play.Action: Sarah enjoyed the water. Look closely for the smiles in other areas of sensory play. If she shouts, move her hands away quickly because it means she is choosing to stop."

"When Zoe was asked what she wanted to do, she sat on the floor and cried. This might indicate that Zoe is finding making a choice difficult. Action: Try limiting the choices to just two objects of reference. She may feel overwhelmed and unable to make an open choice."

Listen to Me: Where Do I Like To Play?

What Might This Look Like?

  • When I am in the garden, do I look happier? Am I able to play with my friends and share better outside?
  • Do I concentrate best in a quiet area away from the busy room?
  • Do I like to cover myself in blankets, sit under things, sit in boxes, etc.?
  • Do I always go to the messy play area but avoid construction toys?

How Can This Be Recorded?

"Abdul was observed playing outside for a short time but ran in crying and hid under a table. He wouldn't let other children join him, shouting at them if they tried. This might indicate that Abdul finds it difficult to communicate his feelings to his friends. Action: Abdul could calm himself down after spending a short time under the table. Try setting up an area just for him where he can take himself if he gets upset. If he looks like he is starting to get upset (beginning to shout at people), ask if he would like to go to his quiet area. NB: This is a choice, so he learns to regulate his emotions."

"Daisy joined in a group game outside with her friends. She seemed to find this more difficult in the classroom and took toys away from other children. This may indicate that Daisy finds the busy/noisy classroom more difficult to play in with her friends. Action: Build more outdoor group games to consolidate the skill before trying again in the main room."

Listen to Me: And Don't Forget To Listen to My Parent(s)/Carer(s)

What Might This Look Like?

  • Does my mum try to catch your eye at the end of each session?
  • Are my family invited to reviews? Are they involved in helping set my targets?
  • Do you ask them first what they think I would like to work on?
  • Do you know what my family's priorities are?

How Can This Be Recorded?

"Jasmine's mum appeared very concerned at the meeting today that Jasmine was not doing anything at nursery. Jasmine cannot tell her mother what she has been doing, which is very important for the family. Action: Start a communication book and take photos of Jasmine's activities during the day. Alternatively, write her activities down so her family knows she has been busy."

"Charlie's mum is worried about his speech development and hasn't seen a speech and language therapist. Action: Setting to look at the SALT Toolkit and then consider making a referral for a speech and language therapist."

Recording a Child’s Voice Using Sensory Diaries

Sensory diaries are an excellent way to record (and celebrate) tiny steps while continuing to focus on the next steps of development. 

In a sensory diary, learning opportunities are written with the family and then photographs are taken of the child demonstrating the skill. The key is the clear recording, which enables the skills to be identified from the narrative.

The session with the child can then be photographed, looking specifically at each skill. Taking photographs highlights the skills and ensures that each session focuses on something to celebrate. This is particularly important for children who may only be making very tiny steps of progress. The narrative must reflect the skills.

Example: Jungle Jelly Activity - Learning Opportunities

  • For Lucy to feel the texture and temperature of the jelly
  • To encourage hand movement and reaching
  • To help Lucy coordinate the movement of both hands
  • For Lucy to experience the taste and smell of the lime jelly
  • Visual skills - using the patterns of the animals, animal print discs, and colourful feathers in the container
  • Listening skills - listening to adults modelling animal sounds and shaking buttons in containers
  • To help develop Lucy's choice-making when she looks at objects she is interested in
  • For Lucy to share a fun play experience with an adult
  • To develop cause-and-effect play
  • To have lots of fun!

Recording a Child’s Voice Using One Page Profiles

Originally developed by Helen Sanderson Associates, a One-Page Profile is a written profile of a person that positively focuses on their core qualities. There are three key sections in a One-Page Profile:

  • What people like and admire about the child or adult
  • What makes the child or adult happy, and what is important to them
  • How they would like to be supported

The website, SheffKids has around 135 themed One-Page Profile templates for free download. 

You can also capture a child's personal qualities using objects. For example, you might fill a bag or a box with:

  • A particular fabric that acts as a comforter
  • A recording of the child's favourite tunes (for those who are calmed or energised by music)
  • A soft toy to show their favourite character
  • Aromatherapy oils for smells that help them make sense of their world
  • Textures to indicate sensory play
  • Lights or torches and colour acetates to indicate preferred lighting


  • Brackley Area
  • Daventry Area
  • Northampton Area
  • Towcester Area
  • West Northamptonshire
  • Northamptonshire
Additional languages
Translation and/or Interpreting Available on Request
Age range
Suitable for ages from 0 to 18 years
Referral route
No Referral Needed
For people with
Special Educational Needs or a Disability (SEND)
Eligibility criteria
  • Age Range - Early Years
  • Age Range - School
Provider category
Specialist Services - For those who require longer-term support


c/o The Northamptonshire Children's Trust, One Angel Square, Angel Street
United Kingdom


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Last updated 31 May 2024