In my first post I wrote about general strategies for initially supporting schools with behaviour ie through the school behaviour policy, whole school training and then channelled down to individual pupils via an analysis of BOXALL profiles. I now wish to share a few strategies that may benefit schools who are faced with challenges from ‘difficult’ pupils.
When I initially observe a child I look at their environment, both in and out of class. I don’t stand/sit with a notepad…I like to be interactive where possible and model strategies. If you can’t do it don’t tell it is my advice!! I recently observed a reception child, with a range of difficulties, who would play outside but not come back inside. She loved it when staff were chasing her around the playground and got quite adept at dodging the adults!! I spoke to her and the other children in class saying I was looking for good walking in the line and modelled it, then went out and mingled ; when it was time to come in, I saw the ‘chase me, chase me’ routine! She responded well to me saying ‘right it’s time to come in show me some good walking…well done Ebony! Good girl!’ Gave her a sticker right away and praised the others….such a simple thing but had an immediate effect and continued to work! Behaviour management is not rocket science but a busy class teacher can overlook the basics and become bogged down and demoralised. It is also a case of trial and error! There is no magic wand!!
I observed another reception boy who was very angry and if he didn’t get his own way would trash the classroom. I observed him having a meltdown and watched what his support assistant did. Commendably she was trying tactical ignoring in a confined part of the room away from others; however the boy wasn’t calming but was getting more and more frustrated and angry. I went and spoke to him calmly, which he ignored, but gradually I distracted him by talking about a favourite subject and he came right down, tidied up with my help, and was able to join the rest of the class. He stayed calm and so I was able to advise re avoiding the flashpoints: he really couldn’t cope with ‘no’ and negative language but thrived with positives. The teacher asked for hands up in a discussion and I encouraged him to put his hand up ; however she didn’t choose him and he started to get cross again….I said to her..don’t choose him straight away as he will think he is in charge but if he is doing as asked maybe choose him next time; again this strategy worked. The children then lined up for play and , with my encouragement, he lined up properly without pushing and shoving. He just needed those very positive comments to behave appropriately and feedback later from the headteacher said he was doing well! It sounds easy but when you are at the end of your tether it is anything but!!
I have also recently supported an ex pupil in a new school who is diagnosed ASD, has a fab 1/1 but had started targeting other children and hurting them. He is an avid Manchester City supporter. I made him a social story linking the behaviour of his favourite stars on the field to his good behaviour in school, giving positive strategies. His support TA printed and laminated pictures of these players and we all went through the social story together; when he is feeling anxious he can sort his football cards- in our pru this activity had a calming effect. Again this has worked and he is doing well!
After the anecdotal comes the checklist…a few ideas that might help! Here are my top 5!
1. Check where the child is sitting…and who he/she is with. One school sat a
difficult pupil near another he couldn’t cope with…of course there were problems! If the child needs a safe space organise one…and if he needs to leave class to access it, sit him near the door!!
2. Safe spaces can be in or out of class and the child may need a simple way of leaving class; maybe a card would be a good way of signalling to the staff so that angry discussions don’t ensue!
3. Unstructured times are often problematic. If a child is struggling at play/lunchtimes consider putting a member of staff to support or have activities in school which the child can safely access.
4. Look at learning and SEN….has the child got an spld or undiagnosed need? We have children who have been diagnosed with dyslexia, ASD, ADHD since coming to us and are responding well to appropriate strategies. In mainstream these can be problematic but if the child needs an EHC Plan they need recognising so the child’s needs can be met appropriately….they may eventually need specialist provision!
5. Appoint a mentor for the child; good relationships are key and the child will respond to a trusted adult in times of difficulty….many of our children at the pru have fraught home lives which impact massively on school; they need to know who to believe in and who has their back.
Dealing with behaviour is not an easy task in any setting, mainstream or specialist, but we need to remember that our most vulnerable children can often struggle in this area. If teachers are really struggling they need the support of the school and SMT via the school behaviour policy and practical interventions. Schools should be proactive in gaining help in the form of experienced professional help via the local pru, if possible, or at least an experienced consultant.
Those of you who read my blogs will know I am going it alone next year…so there may be an element of self interest ….but I strongly feel I would rather schools became self- sufficient! (As some of ours have through training).
However I would be interested to know if anyone would utilise an on-line advice service with possible Skype in areas where help is in short supply? I passionately believe that we are short-changing our most vulnerable children by excluding them so any support I can offer would be very rewarding if we avoided this. Please comment on my blog. Thanks! :)))