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Behaviour Management


Deb
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Hi

 

 

We have little boy in our pre-school setting, who has been with us for a year now. Hew will be 4 next term. He loves coming to us and we love having him. With my support, staff have changed their expectations and we have adapted our environment to meet his needs. He seems particularly advanced in some areas of his development such as recognising numbers, naming 3D shapes (before he was 3), naming and writing each letter of the alphabet, reading and writing some words. However, he has difficulty with some social interaction. He is very pleased to greet staff when he arrives, and enjoys showing us what he is doing at that moment, seeking out adults to show them the object of his interest. The other day, a child that had gone up to reception came back to our setting and they embraced. He will engage with staff for short periods on some activities. We have been working on helping him to join in with ring games, and sit for a short period during circle time, with some success. He will sit on for some time at times on adults lap.

 

 

We are in the process of adaping our environment to make it less over stimulating for all our children, including covering some shelves with curtains that can be open at times when children have a free choice and closed when we want to do a group activity as we have so many colourful resources on display.

 

 

However since September we have been having problems with managing his behaviour, particularly sharing toys with other children. Generally he will flit from one object of interest to another. He has always enjoyed the marble run but he seems to have developed a particular interest in it. There will be little sections of it in different places around the setting. When other children approach it, he will shield the toy or push them away and say no, or take it off them. With adult support he can take turns with other children on this but can still become frustrated, if a child picks up the wrong marble etc and will throw the marbles and become upset. He does this with other activites too such as number lotto, he can take turns to a point but when perhaps he cannot place a number on his nearly full card, he will get upset and throw everything on the floor. He has also begun to throw sand and yesterday hitting another child and his parent. It wasn't hard but I didn't see what happened beforehand.

 

We've arrived at strategies for dealing with the behaviour, discussed briefly with the parent, but if anything the behaviour seems a little worse. I wondered if anybody could offer any opinions on how we are dealing with the situation?

 

We give the child advance notice of transitions between activities; we support his interest in the marble run for the first half of the morning but then explain that it will be going away after snack as it is demanding of adult supervision and it seems to limit his interaction with other resources; when he throws things we say 'throwing stop', or 'pushing stop, pushing hurts'. If he doesn't stop throwing such as the sand, we approach from behind and hold his hands (gently but firmly enough to stop the sand throwing) repeating the instruction, and saying 'hands on legs' but this doesn't seem to be working although we have only just started this this week, and he will lash out.

 

Thinking about it, should we explain to him in advance that if he throws the marbles the marble run will be put away, or if he throws sand he will have to choose another activity. Should we offer him the choice after a throwing incident to play nicely with the sand/marbles or choose another activity?

 

We are a small setting, with no more than 12 children in a session often less, at the moment and 2 members of staff. In general, we try to engage children in small group activities with interesting activities rather than expect them to join in. However there are a few times when we do want children to sit such as the end of the session for a story.

 

If we want to do a group activity such as reading a story, we need to have everything in place, other children sat etc and then invite the child to join in. We help some of the younger children to sit and listen by sitting them on one adults lap, with our little boy sittng on the other adult's lap reading the story so that he can see the pictures to gain his attention. He enjoys listening to stories at home. However, yesterday he sat in the chair first and wouldn't move so I sat on the floor to read the story and he was off!

 

Sometimes you can't see the wood for the trees so I would welcome your opinions on what we are doing and if we could do anything differently. I'm beleive in reflecting on our actions as practitioners to see if what we are doing is causing unwanted behaviour, and often you can see ways to adapt the environment which is what we have done since his arrival. I'm not sure whether our expectations have changed now that he is one of the older children who will be going to school or whether he has changed.

 

Thanks for reading this essay! My head is spinning thinking about it, I even woke up this morning thinking about it, and thought this is no good....ask the experts!

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Deb, you certainly know this little boy very well and feel that there is a problem.

 

However, it all sounds reasonably normal to me-a little boy finding his independence and finding his way. It sounds as if he is an only child at home and therefore experiencing some difficulties with sharing and expressing his frustrations as most children do at this age.

 

I am a great believer that behaviour is a child's communication tool. Are there other things going on that could be causing this frustration / difficulty, changes at home that he doesnt understand?

 

I also think that you are right that you need as a reflective practitioner to be examining your responses to his behaviour.

Maybe restraining him is not a good idea, at least not without warning---taking his hands although non threatening on one level could be causing all sorts of stress to him if he does not really understand?

 

It sounds as if he would probably cope with clear expectations and their reinforcement with some rewards of stars etc to reinforce the behaviour you want to see but this can be very demanding on you as adults and I alwys feel ineffective when employing these strategies. You do not mention if you have tried this?

 

What happens at home? Can you work together on any of this?

 

If you think there is anything more serious behind these behaviours then you should start recording the incidents as an evidence log, as I am sure you are aware. This may enable you to see any triggers and help if you need to call on other professionals or indeed for school. Have you got anyone you can turn to for another opinion?

 

Just some initial thoughts in an effort to help but you are obviously doing all the right things!

Good luck.

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Really commiserate with you. Your child sounds like one I've struggled to understand for four years - one of my first minded children - I was very inexperienced. The child's parent won't 'have him labelled' so I really can't do any more than I'm doing, but he has made me do some reading and research which caused me to tentatively suggest that the child showed several symptoms (lots really) of Aspergers syndrome, and that we may all benefit from having some assessment so that we could understand and manage his behaviour better. Mother reacted very badly and accused me of not liking her child and that my own child just wound him up. Coming around now but it's been a tense couple of months.

 

It is right outside my area of expertise - I really shouldn't write this at all but here goes. The behaviour that gets worse when restraint is applied is what I think might be called Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome (PDA). Might pay to google it. It's recognised as being on the Autistic Spectrum.

 

Preparing for the onslaught of, 'you're not qualified to diagnose anything!!!' I do recognise that which is why I asked parent to consider assessment.

 

Very best of luck,

 

Honey

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Thank you both for your replies, much appreciated.

 

You're right Susan, he is an only child which could impact on his ability to share and take turns. My instinct is that it is more than this though. Mum said he had a play date recently which didn't go well in terms of sharing. She put him on the naughty step to manage his behaviour which is not something we would do. We talk quite regularly, and have been in discussion about how to support his strengths as well. We have been trying to gather observational information regarding these in order to have a rounded discussion about his development but have been finding it difficult to do so, such as whether he is reading words for meaning. The SENCO (and child's keyperson) and I will try to have a proper sit down discussion with Mum this week and with her permission to seek further advice. Mum is very receptive, very pleased with our setting. Over the summer he did develop a health problem (and missed several weeks towards the end of term) which is ongoing, and may be having some impact, however, I feel there is more to it than this. We have recently started a behaviour log. I do feel that restraining a child is a last resort to prevent injury to themselves or others. I have gently restrained the child to prevent several children having sand in their eyes, and on one occasion handfuls of pebbles. Perhaps we should use the 'hands on legs' instruction first. I'm open to any other suggestions too!

 

I haven't thought of star charts, perhaps something to consider. We do of course praise with words and thumbs up 'good sharing'.

 

Are we right to support and restrict playing with the marble run as we do? We have thought of encouraging the use of similar resources such as guttering and balls. We tried to encourage an interest in marble painting this week, but whilst he obliged us with watching a demonstration it didn't hold his interest.

 

Honey thanks for the nod to PDA syndrome. I didn't know anything about this and I think being aware of something like this is a good thing and something to look out for. I cannot make many connections on first reading some of the guidance but I will bear it in mind. It was interesting to read the comparisons of PDA with ASD. Also some of the strategies suggested are interesting and are what we do. I managed to stop staff from trying to be so authorative with him and take a more flexible negotiating stance with him, and rather than putting him under pressure to do something (like come back inside after playing on the bikes) we will try to make it a game or interesting as we do of course have times when we forget to give him notice of transitions.

 

I have tried to avoid labelling the child but I have had similar thoughts to you.

 

Thanks again, it really does help to mull these things over with others.

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Deb, I think the twin of your little boy is at my setting!

Seriously, we are experiencing the same behaviour as you are with one of our 4 year old and we had to call in external help at the end of last summer. he is now being assessed by ed pysch, foundation stage advisor and a paediatrician. In the meanwhile these are some of theings we are doing to support him

1. A personal visual timetable which we use at the beginning of the session and his keyworker and him map out what he will do whilst with us (his favourite is the dolls house, so this is scheduled in every session)

2. Social stories to help him to cope with changes in routine ( and one for hitting/pushing) these explain what is acceptable and what is not

3. We have a quiet place (with soft light, cushions, mobile etc) where he can go if things get difficult for him. He knows this is an adult free zone and will now take himself out of situations (sometimes)

4. We use makaton signing all the time with him as he seems to respond better to this form of communication.

5. We are using ABCC charts to try and work out what causes his outbursts and have seen that quite often it is about personal space issues which, in a busy preschool, is difficult to avoid but we are able to look at things from his perspective and allow him to stay on the periphery of routines,for example, group time.

6. We give items to help him to focus at these group times, like a glittery ball, that he can hold whilst he joins in .

7. We have an 'emotions tree', which is actually for displaying photograph on wire arms with clips on the end (hard to explain, sorry) but he has acccess to images of happy/sad/angry etc faces and he adds it the tree to display his feelings (actually it works well with all the children)

8. He has a photo book which has various photos of him showing different emotions/moods so that we can discuss his feelings when he is receptive

 

Not sure if these are the answers to your dilemma, but might give you some ideas

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Thanks Max, loads of ideas to take to the staff meeting tomorrow.

 

I too think that sometimes, the issue the child has with other children is one of space. He will at times walk away from some resources if another child approaches.

 

With social stores - do you need any training to do these?

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Debs,

What are you doing up at midnight!

No training needed for social stories, I bought 2 books with examples which I then adapted to his needs:

My Social stories by Carol Gray (her website has lots of background info on developing social stories)

I can't do that! by John Lines (which has some really clear examples and a breakdown of the format showing how the story should be structured)

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Debs,

What are you doing up at midnight!

 

It took me longer than I thought to convert some holiday pay information from an Excel table for another thread! Who needs sleep!

 

 

No training needed for social stories, I bought 2 books with examples which I then adapted to his needs:

My Social stories by Carol Gray (her website has lots of background info on developing social stories)

I can't do that! by John Lines (which has some really clear examples and a breakdown of the format showing how the story should be structured)

 

Thanks will look into these.

 

 

One more question - the images for your emotion tree - are these real life photos or pictoral? We have some fans with sad/happy/angry faces on them from our PSED scheme of work which we thought we might use.

 

Thanks again for all your replies which have given us more ideas about how to support the child.

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For the rest of the children we use line drawings but for our focus child he has photos of himself showing various emotions (caught when he is actually angry or crying rather than posed). He does not seem to be able to relate to the line drawings and cannot connect them to 'real' emotions, we use photos of him and his peers in the social stories as well.

 

by the way, an interesting idea from our foundation stage advisor who came to visit today to observe another child, she suggested some lanyards with a red (angry), green (happy) and yellow (unhappy) card on which we could hang in the playroom for this particular child to wear to show his feelings rather than automatically crying, am thinking this might work for my focus child.

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I agree that his behaviour could just be a 4 yr old striving for independence, but I also respect your instincts that this could be something more.

 

Are you able to gain eye contact?

 

One suggestion is to make clear to him that he has choices, not just for activities but choices in behaviour with consequences. Use the words 'choose, choice and chosen' and the word consequences - for example:

BEFORE he starts an activity say;

You can play with the marbles but if you choose to throw them, there is a consequence, you will have to put them away.

This takes the control responsibility away from you and puts it on him. (helping him to learn the concept and skills of self control )

If he throws the marbles you say "You have chosen to throw the marbles, what is the consequence?

If he says 'don't know' repeat the consequence. If you 'choose' to throw then you put them away.

 

Use this language for all his behavioural difficulties; repetition across different activities, and encourage him to voice the rules of choice and consequences himself.

 

If you have problems with eye contact I was once taught a method for children with autism (who are sometimes reluctant to give eye contact). Use what is known to trigger interest, something related to his obsessional choice of play (ie: for your lad-a marble). Hold this item in front of your face, facing towards his face; all at the same eye level, the item will trigger a response in his neural pathway, like a light bulb turning on moment, As attention is gained remove the object and this has been known to enable eye contact.

The example I was given was a boy mad on Thomas the Tank engine, the teacher would hold a picture of Thomas the tank between the boys and her face, once his eyes showed a response she took the picture away and looked straight into his eyes, this had to be repeated sometimes but did work on profoundly autistic children. Science has shown that a change occurs in the brain with neural preceptors (sp?), opening up eye contact to communication.

 

I also agree that visual cues are useful alongside verbal, even when a child has lots of vocabulary and speech.

 

Hope this helps and is not too confusing, the eye contact method is difficult to explain.

 

Good luck.

 

Peggy

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Oh well, chat with Mum went Ok discussing areas of strengths and weaknesses, and stategies we were using to manage the behaviour, and listening to Mum's experiences at home until I said that I wanted, with her permission, to refer the child to other professionals outside the setting for guidance. Mum feels that this is a bit hasty, and that he is a normal healthy boy and that to refer him would mean that his behaviour would be on his records. But it's not just his recent behaviour, I've felt from when he first started that he had additional needs which she is aware of, quite what they are I don't know which is why I wanted to seek help outside the setting. I wanted to start the ball rolling now, as these things take time, but we've agreed to review the situation in 6 months time, unless we run out of options to manage his behaviour. She questioned whether his behaviour was that bad so I've invited her in to observe (from a distance). I've also observed him for most of the morning which was very illuminating and I've said I'll let her have a copy of the observation. Some of the strategies we have started to use are working well but you feel you've always got to have half an eye watching him all the time.

 

I don't feel I was prepared for Mum to not want to have her child referred, quite why I don't know. I didn't handle the situation particularly badly but I didn't handle it particularly well either, and I feel pants right now. How can I work so hard, and be so prepared on the one hand yet not on the other? I so wish I was better at thinking on my feet!

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I agree that his behaviour could just be a 4 yr old striving for independence, but I also respect your instincts that this could be something more.

 

Are you able to gain eye contact?

 

One suggestion is to make clear to him that he has choices, not just for activities but choices in behaviour with consequences. Use the words 'choose, choice and chosen' and the word consequences - for example:

BEFORE he starts an activity say;

You can play with the marbles but if you choose to throw them, there is a consequence, you will have to put them away.

This takes the control responsibility away from you and puts it on him. (helping him to learn the concept and skills of self control )

If he throws the marbles you say "You have chosen to throw the marbles, what is the consequence?

If he says 'don't know' repeat the consequence. If you 'choose' to throw then you put them away.

 

Use this language for all his behavioural difficulties; repetition across different activities, and encourage him to voice the rules of choice and consequences himself.

 

If you have problems with eye contact I was once taught a method for children with autism (who are sometimes reluctant to give eye contact). Use what is known to trigger interest, something related to his obsessional choice of play (ie: for your lad-a marble). Hold this item in front of your face, facing towards his face; all at the same eye level, the item will trigger a response in his neural pathway, like a light bulb turning on moment, As attention is gained remove the object and this has been known to enable eye contact.

The example I was given was a boy mad on Thomas the Tank engine, the teacher would hold a picture of Thomas the tank between the boys and her face, once his eyes showed a response she took the picture away and looked straight into his eyes, this had to be repeated sometimes but did work on profoundly autistic children. Science has shown that a change occurs in the brain with neural preceptors (sp?), opening up eye contact to communication.

 

I also agree that visual cues are useful alongside verbal, even when a child has lots of vocabulary and speech.

 

Hope this helps and is not too confusing, the eye contact method is difficult to explain.

 

Good luck.

 

Peggy

 

Thanks Peggy for your suggestions, I have offered the child choices today and this has worked very well, for the most part. I particularly like the way you suggest explaining to him that if he chooses to throw the marble, he will have to put the toy away.

 

I'm going to particularly note whether he makes eye contact.

 

He seeks out adult attention, such as showing them the marble run.

 

Interestingly today, if a child walked by or towards him, even if they got within 4ft of him he would put his hand up and 'No go and do some painting' or whatever they'd just been doing.

 

Is it too early for a gin and tonic!

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Thanks Peggy for your suggestions, I have offered the child choices today and this has worked very well, for the most part. I particularly like the way you suggest explaining to him that if he chooses to throw the marble, he will have to put the toy away.

 

I'm going to particularly note whether he makes eye contact.

 

He seeks out adult attention, such as showing them the marble run.

 

Interestingly today, if a child walked by or towards him, even if they got within 4ft of him he would put his hand up and 'No go and do some painting' or whatever they'd just been doing.

 

Is it too early for a gin and tonic!

 

 

He's appears fantastic at being able to communicate his needs ie: 'No go and do some painting'

 

and hey, some people are good at thinking on their feet but can miss subtle things compared to the people who ponder and assimilate their thoughts. Each skill is as valuable as each other in it's own way, so give yourself a break and have some praise for being the vigilant, observant person that you are.

 

You wait, in a decade or so this childs parent will see you out someday and say thank you for the time, patience and advocacy you have given her child.

 

Don't doubt your commitment, it's what makes this profession great.

 

Peggy

 

p.s. It's never too early for a G&T in my book, or my preference is a rum & coke (diet of course for health reasons !!)

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