Privileging the voices of young adults

Applied Educational Psychology with 16-25 year olds, by Brian Apter, Christopher Arnold, and Julia Hardy (eds) (UCL IOE Press; pb £25.99). Reviewed by Dr Miles Thomas.

The Children and Families Act 2014 and associated special educational needs and disability (SEND) legislation saw a radical extension of educational psychologists’ client group, with statutory responsibilities to young people with SEN up to the age of 25 (when adult services are required to take over). This has come during a period of rapid professional change within a context defined, at least in part, by austerity and limited resources. This ‘perfect storm’ has meant that the response of our profession has not been as comprehensive as we might have wished and this book, commissioned and compiled by the BPS Division of Educational and Child Psychology, is a valuable contribution that brings together key issues and ideas.

The first section, ‘Settings, opportunities and ethical issues’, highlights considerations around capacity and consent – particularly salient with this age group. Our profession needs to ask questions about how our practice promotes autonomy and independence. There are  also some useful pointers for developing person-centred approaches within this ‘emerging market’ but more evidence of criticality around equal opportunity and participation issues would have been welcome.

The second, ‘Casework and psychological intervention’, is more successful in terms of promoting participation and privileging the voices of young adults. The case study approach used throughout the book also makes more sense in this section, with ways of working clearly illustrated. Chapters from Park on the Grid Elaboration Method and Hobbs on Narrative Therapy are particularly interesting in the ways they position both the educational psychologist and young person.

The final section, ‘Systemic responses to the extended young adult group’, continues the case study approach. Highlights include Atkinson, Hyde and Kelly’s ‘Working with care leavers: A model for effective transition’. Their use of Ryan and Deci’s social determination theory to develop their transition model is thoughtful and I really enjoyed seeing the ways in which young people such as ‘Byron’ assert ‘choice and control’. Atkinson et al rightly highlight issues around efficacy and validity but these debates should not distract from the justified call for more participatory approaches in our work.  

The book might have benefitted from a closing summary to synthesise key points from the rich content in the preceding chapters. I guess the editors felt that readers would be able to dip in and out in line with their interests. It might also reflect the lack of coherence, consistency and confidence across our profession when engaging with the 16-25 age group.

Any future iteration could address some repetition across individual contributions, but overall this is a successful first step in promoting good practice. It should be of interest to all educational psychologists, not just those with a special interest in work with this age group.

- Reviewed by Dr Miles Thomas, Senior EP and Programme Director, Doctorate in Educational and Child Psychology, University of East London

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