Tag Archives: behaviour

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Surprisingly Simple Techniques for Challenging Behaviour

I often get asked about children’s behaviour.

It is a massive topic, with many facets. However, I would always start from the perspective that all behaviour, good or unacceptable, is a form of communication. It is how we, as practitioners and adults, respond to that communication that makes all the difference.

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Resource Ideas to Support Children

If you do a course about special educational needs with me, you’ll find that it isn’t too long before I suggest that all resources you use the children with SEN are good for children who do not have SEN.

A good case in point was recently, on our accredited course, we had a very knowledgeable and experienced teacher come to talk to us about her work with children who have SEN. By the end of the 3 hours there was no doubt left in my mind that good practice with children who have SEN is good practice for all. Let me give you a few examples to show you what I mean:

Two-way communication with parents, families and carers. For a child with SEN this is an essential part of the practitioners work. Without good communication joint targets cannot be realistically set. Hospital appointments, speech and language therapy, physiotherapy and the myriad of different professionals that a child may see, need coordinating effectively.

For the child who does not have SEN, good communication is still very important. And it is essential that this communication is two way. By this I mean that the parents offers information and the practitioner offers information and between them this becomes greater than the sum of the whole.

For example, an activity may well benefit from a parent coming in and demonstrating their skills. Without good communication or understanding of the parents abilities, this would not happen.

Describing emotions. For a child who has difficulty communicating with speech or finds it difficult to make sense of the world around them, it is essential that the practitioner gives them the tools to express their emotions. This may be an emotions board or a picture exchange system.

This is just as important for the child who does not have SEN. Giving a child the ability to express their emotions can reduce behaviour problems and frustration for the child. It has also been shown in research that children who have better emotional intelligence, or the ability to express emotions effectively, do much better later on in life (Goleman, 1996).

Other elements of good practice are as simple as having the right equipment for a child who has SEN. For example, having a calm space where child can retreat to if it’s just getting all too much for them. This could be as simple as a curtained off area in the corner with a few comfy cushions.

Or, for the child who has a visual impairment, using bubblewrap or the rough side of Velcro along the edge of the wall can help them move around the setting more easily. Different textured materials can be used on the handles of different doors, so children know where they are going.

One idea which I particularly like, is having a colour and a smell of the day. For example, Monday could be orange. This would be demonstrated using an orange piece of material and an orange scent spray in the entrance hall.

When children first enter the setting they will know immediately that it is Monday because they can smell orange and they can see the orange fabric up. Similarly each day will have a different smell and a different colour. Others which could be used are lime, strawberry, apple, peach, cherry, lemon, cinnamon and vanilla. Or whatever takes your imagination!

Another excellent idea is using objects of reference rather than pictures on the outside of storage boxes and for the day’s timeline. Objects of reference are objects which are representative of the pieces in the box. For example instead of putting the word Lego, or putting a picture of Lego, on the outside of a box, you could superglue a piece of Lego on the outside of the box.

This is particularly good for children who have difficulty interpreting pictures or who may have a visual impairment. But it is also an excellent visual clue for other children.

This could be extended to the day’s timeline. Instead of having pictures for snack time or playing outside for example, you could attach a a plastic cup for snack or a laminated leaf for playing outside. This can often be more meaningful for children who have difficulty in understanding pictorial representation.

You could involve the children and have them choose what object they would like to have represent different activities during the day.

You will see that most of these ideas cost very little, if anything at all, but have great benefits for the children in your care. By embedding these good practices into the setting, you will be prepared when a child who does have SEN joins you. This will ease the transition into your setting, and demonstrate professionalism in your working practices.

Goleman, D. (1996) Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. London: Bloomsbury Publishing

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Articles

Schema and Fairies

Schemas are one of those things that divide practitioners, like fairies at the bottom of the garden.

You either believe in them and are in absolute awe at how amazing they are, or you just don’t believe they exist. It’s really interesting when you discuss this with people and it’s extra exciting when a ‘non-believer’ suddenly says “That describes my key child exactly!!”

But first of all, let’s explore what a schema is.

Athey (2007) defines schema as ‘patterns of behaviour and thinking in children that exist underneath the surface feature of various contents, contexts and specific experience’ (page 5). Nutbrown (2011) extends this to patterns of ‘action and behaviour’ (page 10). Schema are the repeated actions of children exhibited during their play, drawings, 3D modelling, movement and speech.

For example, for a child with a transporting schema, carrying (transporting) objects is the most important or engaging part of their play.

Typically, a ‘transporter’ will pack everything into bags, prams or buckets and carry them around the setting. Sand play may consist of carrying the sand to the water tray. The bikes outdoors will be used to transport toys.

There are many different identified schema. Athey (2007) describes 10 graphic, 11 space and 9 dynamic schema (page 62) which vary from transporter to going through a boundary. She identified these through prolonged and in depth research of children over a period of 5 years, with a skilled team of researchers.

So far, so good.

But why hasn’t everybody else spotted these and made the connections? As Athey comments (page 7) this hasn’t arisen from ‘common sense’, it is the result of research and pedagogy.

These are the sort of things that you need to learn about and understand so you can see them hidden in the children’s play. Often during courses, as I am explaining the sorts of things a child with a strong schema may do, a practitioner or parent says, in surprise, “But that’s exactly what my child does! We’ve never really understood why” or “that has never made sense before, but now it seems so obvious!”

Once identified, the practitioner can use that knowledge to select activities and experiences which will engage the child. For example, if a practitioner wishes to engage a ‘transporter’ in some mathematical development, then counting toys into a pram, pushing them to the other side of the room and counting the toys out again is likely to be an engaging game.

A child with a rotational schema will be intrigued by bike wheels, windmills and spirographs. By really tuning into the types of things that highly motivate a child, the most suitable sort of experiences, which support the child’s development, can be provided.

A very practical book to use for activity ideas is Again! Again! by Sally Featherstone (2013), which gives lots of ideas for schematic play in each of the areas in a setting, such as water, sand, outdoors etc.

If you’d like a book that has underpinning theory and lots of great examples (colour coded), then Laura England’s Schemas: A Practical Handbook (2018) would be a good place to start. Or for lots of illustrated observations of children engaging in schematic play, with ideas of how to extend these schema, Tamsin Grimmer’s Observing and Developing Schematic Behaviour in Young Children (2017) would be an ideal book.

However, it should be noted that not every child has strong schemas, some children may only display schematic play for a short period of time before moving onto another schema or some children may never display schematic play. Which is where the non-believers come in.

If you have never had a key child with a strong schema then it is quite far fetched to believe that, for example, a very young child can make ‘rotational’ connections in his or her drawings, movement outside and preferred toys.

But once you have worked with such a child you start to see schema everywhere. In fact, you can start to see it in adults too!

Just like fairies at the bottom of the garden, once there is proof there in front of you, it is difficult to deny. Unlike the fairies, schemas definitely exist and are incredibly useful for supporting child development.

References
Athey, C (2007) Extending Thought in Young Children (2nd Ed) London: PCP
Featherstone, S. (2013) Again! Again! Understanding schema in young children Featherstone Education
Nutbrown, C. (2011) Threads of Thinking London: Sage
England, L. (2018) Schemas: A Practical Handbook Featherstone Education
Grimmer, T. (2017) Observing and Developing Schematic Behaviour in Young Children London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

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