Module 2: Communication and coaching skills to approach and support the young PwVHPI and their families before and during a mobility

Communication and support are the essentials, especially when it comes to target groups who have limited trust and for whom exclusion is a dominant experience. This second of five learning modules is designed to provide youth workers and facilitators with guidelines on what to consider in communication and coaching in order to reach young people with visual, hearing and physical impairments (PwVHPI) and provide them with appropriate support before and during their participation in international inclusive activities.

This module addresses the following topics:

  • a definition of communication;
  • an overview on interpersonal communication skills;
  • guidelines to support communication with young people;
  • an introduction into coaching;
  • an overview on important coaching skills for youth workers;
  • advice for the coaching process with young PwVHPI and their parents.

By the end of this module, you will learn:

  • more about communication with young people;
  • more about important skills and concepts of communication;
  • what inclusive communication is;
  • what coaching is;
  • what is important in the coaching process with young people and their families.

1. Communication

Communication is the act of imparting or interchanging of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing (e.g. e-mails, print or digital media), visual tools (sign language, pictures etc.) or non-verbally (e.g. body language, eye-contact, gestures) ( For many of us, it is something we take for granted, something we do not deal with any further. But communication is a complex topic, which is explained by different models. As Paul Watzlawick (Exploring your mind, 2018) once stated, we cannot not communicate, which means, that we cannot simply choose not to communicate, and we are continually sending messages back and forth, consciously or unconsciously. The transaction model of communication (Ashman, 2013) shows that communication is more than a targeted exchange of information. In communicating with others, we must be aware that we are simultaneously and constantly the sender and receiver of messages that generate meaning in a broader relational, social, physical/psychological and cultural context – always with the same aim: to be understood.

Graphic source

1.1 How to communicate meaningfully

For youth workers, communication is an essential competence. They have to communicate effectively with partners, families and project teams. And of course, they are constantly communicating and interacting with the young participants, who, especially in an inclusive international context, can have very different backgrounds and communication skills. There are various communications skills (Skills You Need, N/A) worth to discover. The competence model for youth work published by Salto Youth identifies communication as one of the key competencies of youth workers, which go beyond simple communication skills (Salto Youth, 2016, p. 31). The model can be a source of inspiration for youth workers to discover and to reflect on the various aspects of communication. It is worth to highlight some essential communication skills, especially when it comes to working with young people in inclusive group settings.

It is easier to inform than to engage. But engagement is what we want to achieve. Be aware of your motives when communicating with young people. Try to enter every communication process, assuming you have something to learn. Everybody is an expert in something, and certainly in knowing their feelings and needs. Support their ability of expression by asking open questions.

When asking questions like “Are you afraid to do this?” the person will most certainly react on the strongest word in this question and shape the answer on this feeling. By asking open questions like “How do you feel doing this?” the person has the opportunity to discover their own need and emotions and will give you a much broader perspective on their situation (Headlee, 2020).

Active listening is an essential skill in every communication. Often we are in a conversation to respond, and not to understand. But what we want is to support young people in different situations. In that case, we need to be interested in them, and we need to relate to their situation through active listening (MindTools, 2019) and a non-judgmental approach.

Be authentic. Young people are good at spotting fake behaviour. Communicate on an eye-to-eye level by being respectful and appropriate. And if you don´t know something, say that you don´t know. It will be appreciated and you can discover the answer together.

Your body speaks louder than words. A very high percentage of interpersonal communication is based on non-verbal behaviors like body language or face expressions. It is good to be aware of this, when working with young people. Contradictions between words and body language can lead to loss of trust, which makes it harder to reach young people. And of course non-verbal communication (Verywellmind, 2020) is crucial for deaf people (Verywellhealth, 2020), who get many information cues this way.

Be aware of the words and language you use. What you say has an impact and affects how people feel and perform. As a trainer, you are heard and listened to. If you use language to portray a person as helpless, dependent or pitiful, then this image is conveyed to all others and thus influence their perception of a person. So be careful, what words and actions you cultivate, because they are powerful. Get to know the guidelines (ADA, 2018) on how to address and also describe people with disabilities neutrally and respectfully. It will help you in the communication process. Dive deeper into the concepts of People’s/Identity-first language (DARE Practical Guide for Inclusion, 2020, p. 15) and in case you are not sure, just ask, how different people want to be addressed.

An appreciative and positive communication process can open up many possibilities, while wrong communication can build barriers and lead to mistrust. Get to know different communication approaches like non-discriminatory language (UNE, N/A), gender-sensitive language (European Institute for Gender Equality, N/A), non-violent communication (BigIdeasGrowingMinds, 2019) and inclusive communication (Access Interact, 2017), which give the possibility to communicate without barriers.

Last but not least, be aware of your audience. Clarity, structure and plain language (Dare Practical Guide for Inclusion, 2020, p. 38) are valuable tools in communication. It is all about breaking down complexity, so the information are understandable for everyone. This includes not only people with disabilities or learning difficulties but also not native speakers or people with different educational background.

Communication Graphic source

2. Coaching Skills – What is coaching about

“You can´t teach people anything. You can only help them discover it within themselves.” – Galileo Galilei

Coaching (Skills You Need. N/A) is a process that can help people to learn and develop, to recognise and release their strengths and potentials and to overcome barriers. The person coaching does not claim the role of an expert. Coaching is based on the conviction that each person is the expert in their individual matter and already has all the crucial answers at hand.

Instead, a coach accompanies and promotes the learning and development processes of another person. Especially in work with PwVHPI or other groups of disadvantaged youth, where sometimes insecurities and bias in (inter)action can arise, it is crucial to keep this attitude in mind.

2.1 Important Coaching Skills for Youth Workers

A coaching process can be valuable for young people with and without disabilities to understand and acknowledge what they actually can change and achieve. It is not about ready served solutions. The aim is to develop resolutions together with young people and sometimes also their families. When starting a coaching, it is essential to explain the process clearly and to let it sound easy. In such a way, you can build trust and encourage young people to get involved.

There are various methods and techniques (CleverMemo, 2019) that can be used depending on the person you are talking to and the goal of the process. And there are several essential coaching skills (CleverMemo, 2019) which can be useful for youth workers to support and coach young people:

  • Ask (the right) questions at the right time
    Asking the right question at the right time supports the other person to express themselves, to get clear about the problem and support decision-making. There are different types of questions (Skills You Need, N/A) which can be used to lead the young person you are talking to. Make sure that the complexity of the questions and the language you use is adequate to the person you are talking too.
  • Listen actively
    Active listening means to give the person you are talking to your full attention. It also means gathering the information, reflecting and filtering (Skills You Need, N/A) them. The coach needs to stay objective and non-judgmental. Do not assume. Show empathy, repeat and summarise the meaningful parts of the conversation to make sure that you really got the point. This way, you also give the person the feeling of being heard.
  • Observe the process
    Gestures, emotions and body language are an important part of a dialogue. It is crucial to not only hear the spoken words but also to read between the lines in order to get the bigger picture.
  • Give feedback
    It is important to reflect the information you are receiving and to give feedback. Feedback should always be clear, relevant, constructive, solution-focused and positive. It should give positive affirmation and motivate the young person to look at situations from a different angle and thus initiate change processes.
  • Evaluate constantly
    Coaching is an interactive, dynamic and very individual process. Perspectives are changing, and different aspects can become more critical or relevant. A regular evaluation can help you to determine the current status as well as the need for additional guidance or other actions.

Last but not least, an example. Let´s say, during your youth exchange, one participant was afraid to join a certain activity, and through the coaching process, the person decided to give the activity a try. Do not leave the person alone with the experience. Ask how the person is doing in the meantime and whether further guidance is necessary.

Coaching Graphic source

2.2 Communication and coaching with young PwVHPI and parents

During the coaching and also communication process, it is crucial to establish democratic structures and to create spaces where the young people themselves, but also parents and other person involved can express their opinions. This means in particular to create a positive atmosphere in which everyone feels comfortable and especially has the confidence to express contradictory or critical opinions. This is the basis for dialogue and negotiation at eye level. To be able to lead and shape coaching and communication processes constructively, an open-result process should always be the aim.

This should be not only an outward consensus but also part of the inner attitude. If you already have a result in mind, there is a danger that you, consciously or unconsciously, move in this direction. This pseudo-democratic procedure can result in the fact that the opinions and perspectives of other people involved in coaching or communication are not heard or taken into account.

Communication and coaching processes designed in this way rarely lead to real learning and development opportunities. A favourable climate that values the diversity of opinions must also be reflected in the actions and activities of those participants in the conversation, and at least of the person leading it.

Activity 2.1

Module Title Module 2: Communication and coaching skills to approach and support young PwVHPI and their families before and during a mobility
Activity Title Improving communication skills
Activity Code A2.1
Duration of the Activity (in minutes N/A
Type of resource Activity sheet
Aim of activity This aim is to support youth workers and facilitators in developing and improving their communication skills. Through a deliberate observation process they can reflect on interpersonal communication and adapt their own communication strategies.
Materials Required for Activity Optional: note-taking materials, pen or pencil.
Access to broadcast media.
Step-by-step instructions Subconsciously we are observing communication processes all the time, but we are rarely reflecting on them.
Communication enables people to share thoughts, opinions, and ideas. Although it may appear simple on the surface, effective communication includes a give-and-take exchange that consists of elements such as body language, eye contact, summarizing/paraphrasing, reacting and responding.

Step 1: Have a closer look!Select different types of media like a talk show, a TED Talk, a political talk or another program, where people are communicating with each other. Chose several sources and repeat the exercise. If you want, you can also transfer this exercise into real life situation and take mental notes.Use this opportunity to reflect on communication strategies and behaviours by observing these processes consciously. Think about what is good and successful in their communication and where you can see problems. Write your thoughts down.The following guiding questions can support your observation- and reflection process. Take notes of your of observations and reflections.

  • Cognitive: What messages are exchanged? How is the content shared? How is the speakers’ ability to develop, challenge, question, and summarize others’ ideas? What is successful, what is less successful?
  • Social and emotional: Who are the communicators? What is their relationship? How does it affect their communication? How well does the speaker listen, include others, and respond to the audience? What is the social/cultural context of the dialogue? Which elements influence the behaviour/ the communication process? Where can you see advantages or disadvantages? What would be good to change?
  • Linguistic: How is the speaker’s use of language, including their understanding of formalities and rhetorical devices? Is the language chosen adequate to the audience? Is the audience involved by the way the speaker conveys the message (e.g. questions)?
  • Physical: How is the speaker using body language, facial expressions, and voice? Is it adequate to the situation? How does it affect the audience?
  • Surrounding: How is the surrounding? What (if any) noise distorts the message? How is the room, the light, the place? Does it affect the communication?
  • What other strategies are you observing? How are they affecting the communication?

Step 2: Reflect and adjust!

With this conscious effort to understand how communication occurs, you can now reflect on your own communication processes.

What are your observations? What conclusions can you draw from this for your own communication strategies? Where can you identify weaknesses?

Make a check list for you, to remind yourself the things you want to consider in the future in your communication. This will help you to prepare for different situations and communication settings.

By observing others, you are making a conscious effort to understand how communication occurs. This way, you will reflect on your communication and be more aware of the messages you send. This provides a perfect opportunity for you to develop your communication skills.

Step 3: Record yourself

After you have identified your strength and weaknesses prepare something you want to talk about.

While preparing your content, remember the various aspects you have identified and implement them. When you are ready, record yourself while speaking and analyse the recording afterwards.

  • Are you satisfied with your performance?
  • How did you feel implementing changes in your communication strategies? Was it natural for you or did it feel strange?
  • How was your body language?
  • How did your voice sound like?
  • How was the structure and the language you used?

It is crucial in communication to become more conscious about the way you communicate verbally and non-verbally.
This activity will help you to adjust your communication strategy to the diverse and inclusive target groups you want to reach.

[Activity inspired by Skills your need]

Activity 2.2

Module Title Module 2: Communication and coaching skills to approach and support young PwVHPI and their families before and during a mobility
Activity Title Sharing information – preparing resources
Activity Code A2.2
Duration of the Activity 3 hours
Type of resource Activity sheet
Aim of activity Communication is not just verbally. As we want to spread the information about our activities and prepare young people to get involved, we are often using written information, flyers and other documents. The aim of this activity is to get to know how to develop accessible communication products and to learn, how our publications can be improved to be more accessible.
Materials Required for Activity Additional Learning Resource No 2: Bridging the Gap Inclusive and accessible communication guidelines
Step-by-step instructions It is a great challenge to address a variety of people with our publications, flyers and other print products. First of all, many people may not feel addressed by international activities. That’s why our products must be attractive so that people feel encouraged to take a closer look at them. This can be achieved through the design, the images we use and/or clear language. But there are more things to consider to make such products more interesting and more accessible.

Step 1: Analyse the layout of your flyer, publications, project calls.

Take a look at the additional learning resource no. 2: “Bridging the Gap”. Inclusive and accessible communication guidelines” (p. 10).
Examine the guidelines presented there in more detail and highlight aspects that are new to you or where you see that your product could be improved.

Have your publication, flyer, document, etc. at hand.
Concentrate first on the design according to the guidelines.

  • How would you evaluate its accessibility?
  • How are the text size, fonts, colours and images?

Make notes where you see potential to improve your product.

Step 2: Analyze the language and structure of your flyers’ content:

Information needs to be accessible for all. This means not only for disabled people, but also for people who cannot read or speak the language so well. Analyse the language of your product.

  • Is the information straight to the point as well as short and simple?
  • Do you use of jargon or technical language or is the content understandable?

It is good to know the rules and techniques of plain language and Easy-to-Read language to analyze your text structure. It is also crucial to become familiar with the concepts already introduced in the theoretical chapter:
non-discriminatory language; gender-sensitive language;
non-violent communication and inclusive communication.

They will help you to improve your written products, so you can reach more people and address diverse groups in a respectful and positive way. You will get to know valuable strategies which will change your overall communication in a positive way.

Step 3: Apply the newly learned strategies

After you have learned a lot about how to make your product more accessible and improve its communication, apply these changes to your products. Of course, all strategies are only guidelines and it is not a question of applying them all at once. In order to customize your product, it is crucial to know your target audience and be clear about the information you want to communicate.

[Activity developed by Kreisau-Initiative e. V.]

Additional information If you are interested in making your online communication more accessible as well, we invite you to read the contents of DARE Practical Guide for Inclusion. Here you can find a lot of practical tips.

Resource 2.1

Module Title: Module 2: Communication and coaching skills to approach and support young PwVHPI and their families before and during a mobility
Title of Resource: Reaching more people through inclusive and accessible communications by English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS)
Resource Code: R2.1
Introduction to the resource: In this short video, learners get to know more about inclusive communication practices and principles in an easily understandable way.
What will you get from using this resource? Learners will get valuable insights into the spectrum of inclusive communication, which can be useful to reach a wider audience when embedded.
Link to resource: Video: EFDS- reaching more people through inclusive and accessible communications (Activity Alliance, 2015).

Resource 2.2

Module Title: Module 2: Communication and coaching skills to approach and support young PwVHPI and their families before and during a mobility
Title of Resource: Bridging the Gap Inclusive and accessible communication guidelines
Resource Code: R2.2
Introduction to the resource: The Guidelines introduce useful information on inclusive language, some tips on behaviour to relate to persons with disabilities, instructions to make accessible communication products, and requirements for the organisation of inclusive meetings and events.
What will you get from using this resource? Learners will get an understanding of the spectrum of inclusive communication, also getting access to further information. They will understand how to address individuals with disabilities in a respectful and balanced way, how to produce accessible products and also how to deal with communication while preparing, implementing and evaluating activities.
Link to resource: Publication: Bridging the Gap Inclusive and accessible communication guidelines (Bridging the Gap, N/A).

Resource 2.3

Module Title: Module 2: Communication and coaching skills to approach and support young PwVHPI and their families before and during a mobility
Title of Resource: Person First or Identity First Language
Resource Code: R2.3
Introduction to the resource: This video explains the difference between people-first language (PFL) and identity-first language (IFL) showing different perspectives and preferences.
What will you get from using this resource? Learners will be sensitised to different preferences and perspectives on how people with disabilities want to be addressed.
Link to resource: Video: Person First or Identity First Language (Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2018).

Resource 2.4

Module Title: Module 2: Communication and coaching skills to approach and support young PwVHPI and their families before and during a mobility
Title of Resource: Perspective: Inclusion Language and communication in international inclusive education.
Resource Code: R2.4
Introduction to the resource: The publication examines the key aspects of international meetings, providing examples and presenting a wealth of methods and guidelines for non-formal education designed to support the communication process when working with inclusive groups.
What will you get from using this resource? Learners will gain valuable knowledge and methods to support participants’ communication during inclusive youth exchanges. Through the second part, they will get to know diverse approaches to support communication in practice.
Link to resource: Publication: Perspective Inclusion (Kreisau-Initiative e. V., 2017).

Resource 2.5

Module Title: Module 2: Communication and coaching skills to approach and support young PwVHPI and their families before and during a mobility
Title of Resource: Communication is the key!
Resource Code: R2.5
Introduction to the resource: In the DARE project, we have also developed learning modules for young people and DARE Ambassadors. The third module also focuses on communication with young PwVHPI and can serve as an excellent complement to this module.
What will you get from using this resource? Learners will get to know more about inclusive language and coaching strategies and can develop their knowledge.
Link to resource: Module 3 for young people and DARE Ambassadors: Communication is the key!

For finding out the definition of certain terms with which you may not be familiarised, please read the DARE Practical Guide for Inclusion, the first output DARE project partners developed.


Access Interact. 2017. Guide for youth workers on inclusive communication awareness campaign. [online] Accessed 05.09.2020.

ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). 2018. Guidelines for Writing About People With Disabilities. [online] Accessed 05.09.2020.

Ashman, M. 2013. Communication models. [online] Accessed 05.09.2020.

BigIdeasGrowingMinds. 2019. NonViolent Communication by Marshal Rosenberg: Animated Book Summary. [online] Accessed 05.09.2020.

Bridging the Gap. N/A. Bridging the Gap Inclusive and accessible communication guidelines. [online] Accessed 05.09.2020.

European Institute for Gender Equality. N/A. Gender-sensitive Communication. [online] Accessed 05.09.2020.

DARE Practical Guide for Inclusion. 2020. Chapter 1 – People’s/Identity-first language. [online] Accessed 05.09.2020.

CleverMemo. 2019. 12 Coaching Skills That Make You A Good Coach. [online] Accessed 05.09.2020.

CleverMemo. 2019. 14 Effective Coaching Techniques And Tools Every Coach Should Know. [online] Accessed 05.09.2020. N/A. Communication. [online] Accessed 05.09.2020.

Exploring your mind. 2018. Paul Watzlawick and the Theory of Human Communication. [online] Accessed 05.09.2020.

Headlee, C. (2020). TEDx 10 ways to have a better conversation. [online] Accessed 05.09.2020.

Kreisau-Initiative e. V. 2017. Perspective: Inclusion Language and communication in international inclusive education. Methods, guidelines, impulses. [online] Accessed 05.09.2020.

MindTools. 2019. Infographic: Listening Skills. [online] Accessed 05.09.2020.

Salto Youth. 2016. A Competence Model for Youth Workers to Work Internationally. [online] Accessed 05.09.2020.

Skills You Need. N/A. Communication Skills. [online] Accessed 05.09.2020.

Skills You Need. N/A. Reflecting. [online] Accessed 05.09.2020.

Skills You Need. N/A. Types of Question. [online] Accessed 05.09.2020.

Skills You Need. N/A. What is Coaching? [online] Accessed 05.09.2020.

Stickel, T. 2018. Three models of communication. [online] Accessed 05.09.2020.

UNE (University of New England). N/A. Language usage: Non-discriminatory language. [online] Accessed 05.09.2020.

Verywellhealth. 2020. Communicating With a Deaf or Hard of Hearing Person. [online] Accessed 05.09.2020.

Verywellmind. 2020. Types of Nonverbal Communication. [online] Accessed 05.09.2020.

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