Right from birth children develop their behaviour and social skills from what they experience at home. This experience should be caring, loving and supportive, it should provide children with the opportunity to develop and interact as much as possible. Children need to be exposed to as many experiences as feasible, so that not only can they learn and develop, but they can have their main carers/parents support. This will allow a child to learn to deal with different situations. Sadly, for some children their home circumstances or the way in which they are brought up can be lacking in several areas, for many reasons such as poverty, lone parenting, religion etc. There are children who experience lack of interest and attention and sometimes worse violence and abuse, such things are likely to develop into social, behavioural and emotional difficulties. Families will have different views on the expectations of a child’s behaviour this can be either from family to family or between one parent and another in the same household. Problems can arise through the mixed messages and inconsistencies. Children will become confused and will not understand the boundaries which are very important in a child’s development. Children need attention from adults and unfortunately, they may learn that the only way to attract this is through bad behaviour.
Children with serious ill health or disability will not only face difficulties in their own health, but also their ability to interact with others. They may not only find it difficult to physically interact with friends but also may have communication issues. This will affect their ability to deal with difficult situations. When children experience a delay in their emotional health they are less likely to be able to change from one stage to another. Emotional health is critical to all other areas of a child’s development. 1 – 1.2 Negative or traumatic experiences can affect children in several ways some children may appear unaffected and can bounce back from extreme circumstances. Others can be seriously affected and unable to cope and they may never overcome the trauma that they have experienced at such a young age. Traumatic events may seriously impact on behaviour, social and emotional development. 1 – 1.3Children can have a range of behavioural problems which may delay learning and or other areas of development.
The range of problems can be categorised as behavioural, emotional or social (BESD). If these difficulties impact on a child’s ability to manage at school this will result in an assessment of the child’s needs. If the child is assessed it enables the school and parents to provide the necessary support. Although now children can be assessed and supported throughout their school life it is still not always possible to identify the reason for the problems. 1 – 1.4 Medication is available and can be used for behavioural disorders. In some cases this can have a positive effect, not just on the child but all those involved from peers to parents. The medication can allow the child to function more positively. Medication however, is not without side effects such as sleep problems and a reduction in appetite this can then have a knock on effect on a child’s self esteem and physical development. If a child is given medication in the early stages it can be difficult to get the dosage right. Monitoring by all involved is essential although this should be ongoing as changes may be noticed. For example, if a child takes their medication in the morning by the afternoon as the medication wears off the child may have a significant change in behaviours on a day to day basis from morning to afternoon.
3 – 3.1For the pupil that I work with I have recently been involved in reviewing his statement of special educational needs. The school received reports from his parents, myself as his support and the class teacher. Ups and Downs (A charity that supports children and their family with Downs Syndrome), speech and language report, paediatric report and an Educational Psychologist report were also received and reviewed. With the range of professional involvement it remains key that the pupil and his family are central to the process. Although, at this stage it is impossible to involve the pupil in setting the overall behaviour goals that as a school we would like him to achieve. It has been possible for me in conjunction with the pupil and class teacher to set mini daily targets and a daily reward chart that reflects this. We have involved his fondness of football as the theme and throughout the morning session he needs to achieve two footballs on the chart to get the reward of ball play outside this is then repeated in the afternoon.
3 – 3.2 Goals and boundaries provide a support framework to enable children to make the right choices. It also allows them to develop their social and emotional skills. Children must want to change their behaviour and understand the benefit of the change. They need to see what is in it for them, is it a tangible reward or is it more friends. By involving the child in setting targets this allows them to take responsibility. 3 – 3.3The pupil that I work with requires constant supervision and a great deal of support. His mood fluctuates so much in one day and he needs lots of positive reinforcement and encouragement. This is to not only complete work tasks but also to do smaller things such as hanging his coat on the peg. As his communication is also limited, mostly a thumbs up or smile is enough to show him that he is on track. On other occasions I use the visual timetable to show the steps required, and also the reward that will be given when we are on task. I talk to mum on a daily basis about X and his behaviour and we discuss what is working and what is not.
I also notify her of what rewards have been given or if necessary how many time out situations have occured. Mum is then encouraged to use the same discipline at home to minimize mixed messages. This also ensures that goals and boundaries are clear in both environments. Despite the communication barrier, the home communication form that I created allows me time with X at the end of the day to complete this and review the steps we are taking. It also highlights to Mum and the Class Teacher any further issues or if goals need to be changed. 3 – 3.4 As a teaching assistant I am aware of the relevant policies that support behaviour, social and emotional development as are my colleagues. These policies identify the expectations of all children and the rewards and sanctions that are in place to help support the policy. When children display a more challenging behaviour, as is the case with the pupil that I assist there is then the need to adopt a personalised approach. We have ensured that not only do I and the other teaching assistant and class teachers apply these rules in Class 1. But so too that the whole school staff understand the pupils plan and reward scheme. This enables all staff involved including SMSA’s (School Meals Supervisory Assistants) to adopt the procedures.
The pupil and his parents are central to this process and they have been involved at each stage in agreeing and supporting the rules and rewards for their son. 3 – 3.5Children who have BESD often have disruptive lives where there are inconsistent approaches to their behaviour. This can lead to the child testing the boundaries in each of their settings to see how far they can go. Consistency is key, not only within school but also at home and indeed if the child spends time in respite care, as the pupil that I work with does. In his case we all ensure that not only are the rules and boundaries clear but all involved are aware of them and the rewards given. In some schools and indeed the one that I work at the school council were involved in the behaviour policy. This enabled two representatives from each class to be involved and discuss ideas from other pupils in their class. However, with X it has not been possible to agree boundaries with him. It has been a case of through repetition of small rules and rewards he is beginning to understand. In fact when he feels he has done a good job he will immediately ask for the reward. If it is not yet earned he will be given a visual reminder of the expectation and then shown the card for the reward. When X works with other children to complete work not only do they keep him on task and ask him if he wants the reward, and if he says he does they remind him that he to get the reward.
When it is complete I ensure that we all go out and enjoy the reward. X works with different peers depending on the task and the level that the other pupils are at. This enables all children to familiarize themselves with X needs and also encourages positive interaction between children. X also takes part in an after school club which helps him to socialise further with his peers in a supportive environment and although I attend this is largely to support communication. I intervene to reinforce rules of games by using MAKATON, other than that I step back and allow X to mix. In this situation I feel this is where I can allow children to not only learn about X but also let him understand his peers without my support. 3 – 3.6Children who have a range of problems either behavioural, emotional or social (BESD) can be difficult to manage especially in times of inappropriate behaviour or conflict. They often have trouble controlling their emotions, the pupil that I work with for example, if he falls or hurts himself rather than get upset, he will look to lash out to the pupil or adult nearest to him as close to the incident occurring. Often his inappropriate behaviour is displayed through a physical act either by hitting someone or throwing an object across the room or himself onto the floor.
Although other children with BESD will display inappropriate behaviour in other ways for example : verbal abuse, rudeness or swearing. At school I always try to focus on the desired behaviour and not play too much emphasis on the undesired, my rules are, remind pupil, deal with it and move on. Obviously we need to help the child to understand that we disapprove of their behaviour. Dependant on the behaviour we may decide in some instances to ignore the pupil and give attention to others who are working effectively. Although this procedure is never adopted with the pupil that I work as he would only get angrier. For other behaviours there usually is a structure of sanctions that can be applied. At school we use a card system that is in three stages, if a pupil gets to the final stage (red card) in any one day they lose 5 minutes of their golden time (reward time on Friday afternoons) for each offence. Every child is given 30 minutes on a Monday for their reward, since its enforcement last year it has been very effective and most children receive their 30 minutes. Other schools use such things as losing part of their break time, referral to a senior member of staff or restorative justice. In extreme cases children may be excluded for a period of time or expelled. The use of sanctions should be used with care as for some children it may make things worse.
Children with ADHD need their break time to allow them to let off steam and be less fidgety during their next lesson. X certainly benefits from his break and lunchtime. No matter how bad the behaviour has been, he always gets a break although there have been instances where I have taken him to time out during a break. Caution should be taken with children who have BESD as they can be bullied or be bullies themselves. Bullying can take the same forms as inappropriate behaviour and must always be taken seriously. Schools usually have a policy that supports and protects children from bullying. 4 – 4.1Children should be given as many opportunities as possible to establish social contacts in all aspects of social life and integrated in all lessons. The school environment and organisation of the curriculum plays a key role in the extent to which children can establish social contacts. By teaching and learning in group activities and by setting up learning areas where children can sit and work in small groups this will boost social circumstances. Also by varying groups and allowing children the opportunity to work with others. After school clubs also have a major influence on social interactions and friendships.
4 – 4.2At school although they facilitate social contact as far as possible I have to support and encourage co-operation for both parties in any social situation for the pupil that I assist. I have to consider his communication issues and the age and stage of the other children. Language remains the biggest barrier and so by me involving myself in these social situations I am able to assist X in communicating. It also means I am able to show children basic MAKATON so that they are able to communicate with X. Other times I have explained to younger children what X is trying to say or what he wants to do. I feel this benefits all concerned as it helps to overcome the barrier and also enables us all to build on our communication skills. 4 – 4.3As a teaching assistant I am aware that I must set an example by my own behaviour and no matter how challenging some pupils and their behaviour may be sarcasm should never be used. Children are very observant, even when you think they are busy, they are noticing my interactions not just with other pupils but also colleagues. They will take the lead from my actions and the way I speak to others.
4 – 4.4Within my role with X on a daily basis I have to deal with extremes of behaviour. I find it crucial to remain firm, calm and positive in these situations. Although I understand humour to play an important part in diffusing situations. In the case of X this would be greeted with a negative physical response from him as he does not understand humour yet. In all cases I have found the best thing to do is to allow the child including X to calm down before talking to them. If others are involved they should be separated and spoken to individually. Sometimes you may be in an uncomfortable situation when dealing with a conflict or there may be a frequency to the same pupils being involved. If this is the case you should seek support and information from the SENCO. In some cases the school may feel that an outside agency can assist for example psychological services. If at anytime you are in a situation and you feel at risk you should send for help, although physical restraint can be used when others are at risk from harm. But it is essential that you understand the school guidelines for dealing with such incidents.
With X it was agreed from outset with both the parents and educational psychologist and SENCO that X would need some restraining for his own safety and that of others. The frequency of the restraining varies and sometimes it is met with great objection, other times X appears to need this to calm down and regroup. 4 – 4.5Sometimes there are breakdowns in relationships between children and their peers or between a child and an adult. This may or may not include you but you may become involved, by talking to each party to try to understand the problem. This will not only allow you to support both parties but also to resolve and rebuild the relationship. It will give the child the chance to recognise and come to terms with feelings they may not be familiar with or understand. As a teaching assistant you need to modify the way you approach and deal with the situation depending on the child’s stage of development. If the situation cannot be resolved or the breakdown is serious it may be necessary to involve a teacher or senior member of staff or outside agency. 4 – 4.6It is essential to the whole process to review a child’s social and emotional skills and the impact of this on others.
We should identify a regular time to sit with the child and discuss how they feel about their skills. It is important to establish any difficulties they are experiencing and how they think that other children may view their actions. The sessions that you have with the child will enable them to understand the alternative actions they could take. They could be encouraged to think of the consequences of their actions. They should be shown that there are other choices, there is always another option or route that could be taken. 5 – 5.1 & 5 – 5.2Every child needs to be given the opportunity and encouraged to be independent. This is particularly important with children who have BESD as they may lack self esteem and confidence. In my role working with a pupil who has BESD it is a challenge to balance his needs and not be a velcro assistant, stuck to him protecting him from everyday events. Some things he may pretend he cannot do or wont help you to do it but, if I persist on the visual reminders then eventually he will try and help. Although it would be quicker to assist we are making tiny steps of progress and increasing his independent ability to do things for himself.
One example of this is to allow him to get ready for PE, although X really enjoys PE he does not enjoy nor can he as yet get himself ready. But by using gentle persuasion and lots of encouragement I am able to now just tell him which bits are required and he will attempt to get ready and take clothes off and put them on. Sometimes he makes mistakes, getting shoes on the wrong feet but this is not a problem it also demonstrates how he is beginning to develop and accept changes. I feel by teaching him greater self care even, when it interferes with the school timetable this will boost his self esteem and independence. It is socially more acceptable if X can take himself to the toilet, wash his hands and get dressed and undressed. I remind X in the process of each challenge and at the end of each step appropriate praise is given. I do feel that we share a mutual trust and this allows him to know how far to push things and when I need him to do certain things. I give him plenty of opportunities not only to take part in the curriculum but also to express his feelings in other ways. Sometimes I can see his emotions are escalating and he is becoming very angry and frustrated, I may then decide to take him outside and bang a drum for five minutes.
I cannot make X behave in a certain way but I can and am able to give him the opportunity to make the right choices. Although, with other children I am able to use restorative justice to accept responsibility for their actions and to link behaviour with consequence at this stage this is a step in the future for X. At the moment we concentrate on saying sorry, time out or rewards. Sometimes we make a small amount of progress and then we have a school break and things go backwards and inappropriate behaviour returns. When X is at home he does not have any siblings his own age and the boundaries are different, even though his parents are on board with various strategies they do not always stick to them. X can then return and appear to be out of control with certain things, when this happens I start again with recognising the blip and reinforcing the strategies used before that were working. Lots of reassurance is given to X when he returns as its a slow process to rebuild what appears to have been lost. 5 – 5.3Supporting children involves giving them an opportunity to develop self management skills by providing a safe and secure environment. If you assist a pupil in obtaining the following skills this will reduce their need for constant support and help them with self esteem : Problem-solving skills
General life skills
I feel at the moment some of these skills are further into the future with X however we are beginning at a very young age and building general life skills and self expression. 5 – 5.4X is given regular feedback on his progress by using the visual timetable to maximum effect and the daily reward chart. He is also given by both myself and the Class Teacher praise either verbal or a MAKATON sign to show our approval. The whole class has a star point chart and either for work or behaviour or a kind act we can give out a star point. After each pupil attains 10 star points they are allowed to pick a reward from the box , such things as a pencil, pen or rubber are in the box. We also use a celebration assembly at the end of each week to announce two star pupils who receive a certificate for their work and one pupil from the class who receives a hand of friendship. The hand of friendship is nominated by other class members and they have to explain why they nominated this person. The certificate scheme and hand of friendship recognise achievement and effort for the whole school and the children enjoy receiving these awards.