I was overjoyed to see Lee Ridley aka Lost Voice Guy win Britain’s Got Talent. He uses a communication aid to deliver his wicked, sharp comedy. He deserved the win. He is a funny guy who just happens to have Cerebral Palsy. I tweeted ‘See the person not the disability’ and it got picked up by Mail Online. Can’t say I wasn’t excited!
But unfortunately when it comes to our children with autism and ADHD, the first thing people see is the bad behaviour. Then we get the labels; naughty, rude, lazy, disobedient.
In actual fact our children are expressive, creative, funny and entertaining.
How do we get the world to see the positive features and not to get stuck with the negative? See the child and not the bad behaviour 💛
How did the British public see past Lee’s disability and see his humour?
I think the answer lies in education.
The bad behaviour is masking what is lying beneath. The bad behaviour is a communication that something is not going right.
We must educate the general public to understand that children and adults with autism and ADHD can contribute to society in the same way as their peers.
And this starts in schools.
One size does not fit all.
Some children need things to be handled differently.
I suggest 7 ways to ensure that schools see the child and not the bad behaviour
I have mentioned before the absolute scandal that trainee teachers are given one day exposure to ‘special needs’ out of a four year course. This is wrong and is totally unacceptable.
In every class there will be one child with some sort of additional need. It shouldn’t be left to the experienced teachers to guide the newly qualified staff. It should form a solid basis of their initial training.
As we know, one child can severely disrupt the learning of the whole class. So if teachers understood what practical steps to take in the classroom, then this would not cause such a massive problem.
Teachers are frazzled if the behaviour of a child disrupts the class and stops the other children progressing. The child’s bad behaviour will dominate the teacher’s actions.
In my previous role as SENCO, one of my tasks was to ensure that all children were ‘included’. I met with class teachers and assistants weekly to ensure that the curriculum was adapted, the environment was suitable and the behaviour management in the classroom was fair.
This doesn’t take long. A short meeting to make sure that the needs of a particular child are being met in the classroom, in assembly and at break. It is vital that a class teacher gets permission to do things differently for individual children.
3.Be a friend to the school
It is all too easy to have a ‘them and us’ scenario as when schools get it wrong the trouble comes home. But try as much as possible to work with the school. Let the teacher know what things work. What is successful. What definitely doesn’t work.
Arrange regular meetings and don’t wait to be called in. Ask what things are in place to support your child’s needs. You are not asking for any complicated formal plan. Just small, simple tweaks that have huge repercussions for your child. Follow this up in an email so there is a paper trail.
If there are successful things in place, the child’s positive behaviour will start to shine through.
If a child’s needs are not being met in all areas of school life, there will be a breakdown. Usually ending up with that child being in trouble and then perhaps exclusion.
I am quite frankly horrified to read that children with a diagnosis of autism are more likely to be excluded from school that their peers. There has been a 60% rise since 2011 in the number of exclusions of children with autism. This is a disproportionate representation and it is unnecessary.
Exclusion should be the last resort when all other avenues have been tried. ‘Reasonable adjustments’ should be made within the school’s budget. This calls for creative management of staff and resources, but it can be done.
There is also a growing awareness that some children are on a ‘reduced timetable’ and their parents are asked to keep their children at home. This is totally unlawful. If a child is to be formally excluded, the Head must follow strict guidelines and inform the Governors. This is then scrutinized by OFSTED. Many Head Teachers are reluctant to go down this path, and ask parents to keep their child at home instead. Parents do not know to challenge this unlawful practice. Every child has the right to a full-time education.
Request a copy of the school’s Behaviour Policy. Is it fair and reasonable? Do you think it will support your child? You are entitled to make your voice heard and if you want to challenge the content of the policy you can write to the Chair of Governors. You may not get a policy changed but at least your concerns will be noted.
A good Behaviour Policy will take into account of children with special needs. That is not to say that there shouldn’t be rules that should be adhered to. Of course, we want our children to be law abiding. But if the policy states that a child will be kept in at break if their work is not complete, we can ask what measures did the teacher go to to ensure the work was suitable, adapted and differentiated.
The Equalities Act 2010 states that children with a disability must not be ‘indirectly discriminated’ against. So if there is a punishment and adaptations have not been made, the school are breaking the law.
7.Opportunities for success
The best way a teacher can see the child and not behaviour is to get our children to shine. And what better way than to give them as many opportunities to be successful as possible.
Things that schools should be doing: Make sure work is achievable. Reward often and criticize minimally. Help with organisation and keeping on task. Set up a work area that has few distractions. Allow movement breaks, time out and fiddle apparatus. Promote talents and strengths. Notice and praise the small things. Smile. 💛
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