The topic of the week is Special Educational Needs and Behaviour Management.
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We welcome John Wootton, Pivotal team member, onto the podcast this week to talk about SEN and behaviour management.
John’s background includes PE teaching, English teaching, pastoral work, and senior leadership roles including being a deputy headteacher for 14 years. He now works for Pivotal Education as well as the charity, Teaching Leaders.
Autistic Spectrum Disorders
We start by discussing autistic pupils. John points out that many of the strategies teachers need to use with pupils on the autistic spectrum are the same as for any pupil:
- Make yourself consistent and predictable – in lesson structure and in how you intervene and respond – this means having a lot of emotional control
- Plan your own language – both verbal and non-verbal – avoid complex language and the use of imagery – be plain and simple
- Model the appropriate behaviour you want to see
- Encourage positive friendships – your own friendship with these children as well as helping the children make positive relationships themselves
Paul and John agree it’s worthwhile to bring students with autistic spectrum disorders into the teaching space a day or two before the rest of the class arrive. John also tells us that his own daughter is working with an autistic child and she arranged to go round to the family home in advance of the term starting to check out the rules and routines in place at home. This will enable her to provide some kind of consistency when the child comes into school.
The more you can make the pattern of the school day predictable, the more chance the child will feel safe.
- Lack of empathy with others
- Naivety of interaction with others – bordering on inappropriate
- Lack of ability to form friendships
- Literal language
Children with Asperger’s Syndrome may be experiencing the world in a completely different way to us. It will take time to work out how to meet the needs of these individuals effectively.
Difficulty in making relationships extends out in the playground. John says part of his approach has always been to help these children make friends. He finds children who are understanding and empathetic and says that it is possible to form strong bonds.
John points out that whether you think ADHD exists or not, all teachers come across children who literally can’t sit still. They have:
- Difficulty in maintaining attention
John says that the problem for him is not a lack of attention but that these children pay attention to too much. This is difficult for a teacher because it’s so unpredictable. Many teachers take this personally but, talking to other staff members, you quickly realise it’s a common experience.
- Routines and rules are the same as for everyone – including a seating plan with a set place to sit – for many teachers, being close to the child with ADHD makes a lot of sense
- Use lots of eye-contact, especially when talking about instructions
- Keep instructions clear, simple and few in number
- Consider a ‘time-out’ strategy which can be instigated by you or the child
Paul mentions a class which had covered display boards with Hessian and deliberately reduced the amount of complicated display in the classroom. John says this could be combined with a careful consideration of your tone of voice as a teacher.
Your class becomes like you, so there’s a lot to be said for considering how your behaviour affects classes with children who have ADHD.
Dealing with explosions of anger
Make sure you know if any of the children in your class are prone to explosions of anger so you can make preparations.
- Remember that we don’t necessarily know why the explosions of anger happen – we need understanding, and not to pre-judge the reasons for the behaviour
- Consider what kind of language to use
- Use pre-prepared scripts to manage the outbursts
- Consider what the ‘triggers’ of the behaviour might be
- Consider what the ‘wrap-around’ systems and processes are in the school and use these
Our previous podcast guest, Garth Smith, also left us a voicemail question this week about low-level disruption – do listen to John and Paul’s answers at the end of this episode!
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