21. Supporting an Able Primary Child with Complex Needs, Including Challenging Behaviour

Background This P6 child in a large primary school with a mixed catchment area and minimal deprivation was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, ADHDObsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and possibly Tourette Syndrome. The child had displayed escalating violence towards peers and adults and increasing disruption in class resulting in exclusion from school during Primary 5. The school’s excellent relationships with parents became precarious as everyone struggled to manage the child’s behaviour and ensure his emotional wellbeing. When extremely anxious, upset or angry the child ran away from school and the Police were involved. By term 4, the child was on part­-time education and was being accompanied by his parent when in school. Solution Focused Approach As the parents’ anxiety and frustration levels rose, they sought advice from a local Councillor and raised their child’s profile within Education & Children’s Services. Numerous meetings were held in school where there were representatives from Educational Psychology, Education & Children’s Services, Speech & Language Therapy and a representative from an external agency. It was suggested that the child should be placed in a smaller school if the present school could not meet the child’s needs. The school believed that this was unlikely to impact positively on the child’s social and emotional wellbeing. It might also affect his siblings and family circumstances.  The Support teacher felt that the school could meet the child’s needs if everyone involved with the child was prepared to re-evaluate current practice and adjust teaching styles, the curriculum and the child’s specific means of accessing the curriculum. Strategies Key success factors were as follows: • understanding the child. That is: knowing his likes/dislikes, knowing areas of strengths/difficulties, knowing what raised/lowered anxiety; • increased one-to-one support during Primary 6 (it was possible to reduce this support in P1); • honest and open, regular communication between home and school; • additional support for staff working daily with the child (from the child’s relative); • willingness of Support staff to frequently review and adjust practice but maintain consistency; • flexible support and curriculum; • clear communication to all school staff; • additional training in Asperger’s Syndrome for all school staff; • structured class settings with consistent, clear boundaries; • opportunities for the child to access a ‘safe place’. Range of Strategies to Promote Positive Behaviour and Improve Learning • Access to ‘Time Out’ before the start and end of the school day. • Access to a quiet, safe space (to calm down, to run to). • The first fifteen minutes of each day was spent in the Support base where the daily plan was discussed. • During the next hour, the child attended a set maths class (one of the child’s areas of strength). • The second half of the morning was spent in the Support base doing a language task (an area of difficulty and frustration). • Most of the afternoon was spent in class with 1 – 1 support. • Certain areas of the curriculum were omitted – eg RME, French, Assembly. • A personal work station was created in the Support Base. • Personal visual timetable with removable symbols for use at home and at school. • Social stories for specific ‘tricky’ situations. • A personal passport was created. • ‘Feelings traffic lights’ – ‘How are you today?’ • Child’s own interests/ obsessions were incorporated into class work and rewards. • Child was allowed to doodle on paper when listening. • Being one step ahead. Preparing child for any changes to routine/ timetable . • Use of special writing and drawing pens (child disliked sound of pencil on paper). • Use of a personal aromatherapy diffuser (specific smells would help to calm child, eg curry). • Creation of a special ‘choosing box’ containing personal interest toys as a reward (or as a calming activity). Individualised Planning and a Flexible Curriculum in Line with Curriculum for Excellence Learning, Social/Emotional targets were planned jointly with teaching staff, parents and child. Targets were regularly evaluated and renewed as success was achieved and new goals were required. Partnership Working The most significant partnership in achieving success was that of the child’s family, the Support staff and the Primary 6 Class teacher. The child’s parents correctly believed that their child could attain and achieve within the school environment if the appropriate structures, plans and support were in place. They never doubted their child’s capabilities and they did their very best to ensure that their child had every opportunity to maximise potential. Discussion and liaison with the Speech & Language Therapist and the Educational Psychologist also contributed to a successful outcome. The child was very much part of the partnership and where appropriate, contributed to the planning of the curriculum and the management of time in school. Successful Outcomes included:
  • the child attended school full-time without parental support;
  • reduced anxiety and negative behavioural outbursts;
  • minimal desire/need to run away;
  • increased attainment and successful learning;
  • improved confidence, self-esteem and trust;
  • improved relationships with peers;
  • more re/axed family life – mother able to work part-time;
  • greater staff awareness of needs/behaviour associated with Asperger’s Syndrome.
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