7. A Primary 1 Child with Social and Communication Difficulties

Background A Primary 1 pupil had made the transition from a private nursery where he had been displaying angry outbursts. It quickly became apparent that he was having difficulty in coping with the various transitions he was required to make on a daily basis. Attempts to move him from his agenda resulted in angry incidents involving aggression towards adults and peers. Furniture and equipment were knocked over and the child ran out of the classroom to find another adult to engage with. This created a great deal of tension within the classroom as the teacher struggled to maintain a calm environment and reassure the other children whilst ensuring the safety of everyone.The child also dominated the attention of adults in the room by attempting to talk about his current obsessions or by interrupting, shouting out answers or asking questions. Solution Focused Approach The primary school staff worked closely with the child’s parents, the Autism Outreach teacher and Speech & Language Therapist. Through observation and discussion it was decided to adopt a consistent approach to managing the behaviour of the child and meetings were arranged to plan strategies with all members of staff involved. Strategies Key success factors included: • a consistent approach by all members of staff working with the child, adopting agreed strategies; • a visual timetable to make the day predictable and help the child cope with changes with his routine; • a work station using the TEACCH approach established to provide a quiet, calm environment; • a work system to help develop organisational skills by presenting tasks using numbered folders; • behaviour management strategies implemented and consistently adhered to by all members of staff involved; • regular consultation time with all staff involved in working with the child in order to agree strategies and review progress; • consistent implementation of strategies both at school and in the home environment; • CALM training for staff members which focussed on de-escalation techniques; • an awareness and understanding of the difficulties being experienced by the child. Range of Strategies to Promote Positive Behaviour and Improve Learning A reward system was put in place making use of the child’s specific interests; in this case it was cars, printers and roads. The rewards were provided for success in reaching the daily targets set for completing tasks, ie 5 minutes time set aside at the end of each day for browsing the internet looking for different models of printers. Care was taken by all staff not to reinforce the negative behaviours by giving attention when the child ran out of the classroom. A chair was provided in a safe spot outside the classroom and the child was directed to sit there quietly or return to the classroom. A visual timetable was established using Boardmaker symbols. This served to make the child’s day predictable and prepare him for the pending transitions he would be required to make.The classroom rules were presented visually and time was taken each day to reinforce these rules and remind the child about the expectations of appropriate behaviours. Social stories were created to help with the child’s understanding of these expectations .Visual prompts were provided by the Autism Outreach Teacher to encourage the child to follow the classroom rules regarding good sitting, looking and listening. Individualised Planning and a Flexible Curriculum in Line with Curriculum for Excellence The school looked at ways to help the child make the necessary transitions throughout the day. This involved allocating a Pupil Support assistant to help in the classroom; to guide the child through his various daily tasks, prepare him for forthcoming transitions and recognise the signs of anxiety and apply agreed de-escalation and distraction stategies.The Class teacher revised her planning for the child by considering alternative methods of assessing progress, thus reducing the need for written work. The child was able to read on entry to Primary 1 so the work was differentiated to take account of this, thus providing a challenge for the child at an appropriate level. Sensory issues were taken into consideration (unwillingness to sit in close proximity to others, dislike of certain food smells, loud noises etc) and care was taken to gauge levels of anxiety relating to these issues and avoid exposure during times of stress. It was agreed that the child would benefit from an understanding of different emotions and the feelings related to each one so that he could recognise similar emotions in himself. Strategies would be provided to help the child take ownership of his emotions by realising when he was becoming anxious and take steps to compose himself. Visual supports were provided to assist with this strategy. Although a work station was established for the child, opportunities for group work were also provided and the sessions were facilitated by an adult to encourage appropriate interactions . The Speech and Language Therapist embarked on a programme to develop social skills, ie turn taking, sharing an activity with another person. Partnership Working The Autism Outreach teacher developed strategies with the child’s parents at home and the staff at school to support the child with his behaviour.  Additional support meetings were co-ordinated, involving all agencies working with the child to review progress and plan for future interventions. This work led to consistency of approach across all the child’s settings and acted as a strong meaningful link between school and home when problems arose. Successful Outcomes included:
  • the incidences of running out of the classroom reduced substantially;
  • the child was more able to cope with transitions throughout the day and managed to work through his daily timetable;
  • he willingly accessed his work station where he was able to work quietly and calmly;
  • the implementation of his work system helped him organise and complete his daily tasks;
  • episodes of challenging behaviour were reduced and this resulted in a calmer, more peaceful environment;
  • the child participated more successfully in the classroom activities and discussions;
  • he was included more regularly in the play activities of his peers;
  • members of staff were able to remain calm and confident when working with the child due to their increased understanding of the difficulties being experienced by the child;
  • the child appeared happier and more settled in school.