19. A Primary Child With Undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome

Background This child had previously been identified as having difficulties with behaviour but no formal Additional Support Needs assessment or review had taken place. Very soon after starting P3, the child displayed quickly escalating disruptive behaviour. After 6 weeks of containing the situation as well as possible, he was excluded following an incident where staff and pupils were physically and verbally assaulted and a classroom wrecked. The child climbed to the top of a very high fence threatening self-harm. The school is in an idyllic setting with 120 pupils and a 20/20 nursery. Free School Meals are less than 3% and there are many placing requests including a high percentage of pupils with identified additional support needs. Because of this, the school has an appropriately sized Support team of highly motivated and skilled professionals. The school had already begun an initiative to change punitive disciplinary methods to a more restorative focus. Solution Focused Approach The whole staff team met and discussed the way forward. It was agreed, due to the stress caused to other pupils, staff and the child himself that the boy would remain out of class for a period of time. To facilitate this, the school redeployed (with a few extra hours from Central resources) an existing Support assistant to work with the child on a 1-1 basis in a small room close to the classroom. The aim was for the child to be helped to build strategies and confidence in his own ability before he could be supported back in class. The Class teacher planned and taught set work within this environment. A whole school restructure of positive disciplinary procedures followed. Strategies Key success factors were as follows: • part-time timetable; • a functional analysis that gave a good idea of triggers and patterns within the child’s behaviour; • a group of staff (including Class teacher and Headteacher) were trained in CALM strategies • risk assessments and protocols were completed to enable a consistent approach; • referral to the Educational Psychologist, Mental Health services and the Speech & Language Therapist for assessment; • Support for Learning assessments were undertaken to establish a baseline for learning/any barriers to learning; • safe environment was established with an element of control for playtimes provided (away from main playground with chosen friends to join him); • calm, welcoming, safe (trigger-free) environment created with child to work in (his own safe space); • communication was encouraged between everyone. A diary was updated daily on the school server for all to access and important information was shared with parents on a daily basis; • responsive and flexible learning environment was established dependent on child’s mood and ability to learn that day. Range of Strategies to Promote Positive Behaviour and Improve Learning The school tackled one issue at a time and at a pace with which the child could cope. The individual targeted reward system was developed and agreed with the child and parents who used the same approach at home. Time back in class was agreed with specific tasks/ rules/targets discussed in depth with the Support assistant beforehand. Re-integration was very gradual, starting with going to fetch something from the class, gradually working up to full time back in class. The environment was symbolised with prompts and a visual timetable to enable non verbal communication if required (as this was found to be a trigger). There was a ‘classroom conference’ with the rest of the class to discuss the boy’s impact and how they could support what the school was doing. As a result, there were shared and agreed protocols for other pupils in case an incident occurred in classroom/playground which complimented the CALM protocol for staff. Individualised Planning and a Flexible Curriculum in Line with Curriculum for Excellence Person Centred Planning (PCP) was used at meetings with the child present, discussing important points with him, identifying needs, strengths, worries and fears. Minutes were taken up on large flip chart in child friendly language/pictures. This allowed the child to be empowered by the agreed action plan. The PCP was also used for his own future plan once he was ready to integrate back into class. The curriculum was developed in line with and around the child’s own interests (personalisation and choice, relevance for child). The boy worked with different stages of pupils to develop social emotional skills as well as with his own peer group when possible. Outdoor exploration became part of his everyday routine. The child was taught to evaluate his own learning effectively and positively (previously it had been very negative). Active learning was employed with supported literacy skills. Partnership Working • The child’s doctor co-operated with the school and the recommendation of Headteacher to refer quickly to Mental Health services. • Various discussions took place with Service Manager(s) and the Local Management Group was informed and supported decisions which were made. • Additional (behaviour) support time was allocated to support the child and build capacity within the school team. • The Community Link worker worked with parents to provide an effective controlled environment at home. • Mental Health staff worked with the child outwith school although unfortunately limited feedback and criticism of school strategies at times and lack of communication often caused difficulties with parents. (The child is now diagnosed with Aspergers’ Syndrome) Successful Outcomes included:
  • initially the class and pupils were relieved of pressure and fear created by outbursts;
  • whole staff have adopted a ‘no blame culture’, /earned from difficult situations. They have enhanced confidence when dealing with these situations and have consistent, planned and agreed approaches to individuals across the school community;
  • strategies used with this child were quickly adopted for other pupils and had a positive impact across the school. Pupils and staff worked in partnership to improve learning and teaching, and the environment, for all;
  • the peer group developed a deeper understanding of their part in escalating situations and the impact of this;
  • there was parental support for use of strategies alongside Restorative approaches, which can and do work hand in hand
  • a reduction in number of ‘blowouts’. CALM risk assessment, protocols and de-escalation strategies were used effectively with pupils across the school;
  • the child developed an enhanced confidence and a ‘can do’ approach’ to life, not just his learning;
  • the child is now back full-time in the mainstream classroom and full-time education.
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