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You see ‘1 missed call’ on your phone. It’s school…GULP!

Does your stomach sink when you receive a call from school, worried what they will say? For many parents of children with additional needs, a phone call home is often not a positive thing. Schools can struggle to meet children’s needs and understand the complexities of their diagnoses – meaning parents often receive reports of ‘bad behaviour’. What is happening in fact, is a child struggling to communicate their needs to an array of new adults in their lives.

Remember all behaviour is communication.

What we need to do as parents is to support school and our children to understand their triggers. This is relevant for all children, not just those with additional needs. It just may be that a child with a special educational need may have a more unique trigger for example.

A trigger is a thought about a situation that leads to an inappropriate response to that situation. In other words, it’s not the situation or the feeling that’s the problem, it’s how children think about these things and what they say to themselves that causes problems.

Whenever a child lacks the skills to effectively respond to or manage a trigger, acting out occurs. Children then have a huge range of emotions to deal with: anger, shame, worry or even sadness. This kind of thinking, commonly referred to as “negative self-talk,” might lead to your child lashing out.

Learning your child’s triggers is one of the first steps to helping them learn better self-management skills. When the child and the adults that support them can learn their triggers, they start to recognise them when they come up. Only when they recognise them can they start to use a new strategy to manage them. The process itself will involve a lot of problem-solving discussions with you and will take repetition and time, but it’s something most children can learn.

Every child is an individual, however, there are some common behaviours we see in classrooms across the country.

These are just some of the common behaviours that a child with additional needs may display and what they might be trying to communicate about how they’re feeling:

  1. Avoidance – children will often use negative behaviour as a means to avoid something they are anxious about, sometimes days before the event is due to happen. As children get older, their reasoning skills develop – therefore making them more equipped to decide that avoidance is a more viable option.
  2. Embarrassment – children will often display negative behaviour if they are embarrassed, in order to divert the attention away from their embarrassment and onto their behaviour.
  3. To uphold social standing – Children, especially those who have additional needs, will often display negative behaviour to uphold social standing amongst their peers. It is better to ‘look cool’ rather than to display weakness.
  4. Masking – children will often behave negatively to cover an area of weakness or additional need. This is linked to point 3, the need to uphold social standing.

The SEN Expert has developed a support package to aid parents, schools, and young people to identify and manage behaviour triggers. The Behaviour Trigger Log is a document that can be used by schools or parents to link environmental, physical, and emotional factors to a behavioural trigger. The log then encourages parents and schools to work together to put together a supportive strategy for behavioural triggers.

Rather than dreading a call from school, with the help of the Behaviour Trigger Log, parents will be able to open positive channels of communication and ensure the best support for your child. Download the log now!

If you need any further information or support, please don’t hesitate to contact me via my bloss profile.