TS5 – Adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils.

Over the past few weeks, one of my SEN children’s behaviour has begun to deteriorate. He has Autism, as well as physical disability, which can cause him to become frustrated over various things within lessons and around school in general. Various strategies have been implemented throughout this academic year to support him, however the strategies only work dependent on the kind of day the child is having. Lately, he is struggling when people are ‘in his way’, have touched something that is his, or are sat in the chair he likes to sit on. He is becoming argumentative, resistant, more vocal and his response is to lash out or scream. This behaviour is becoming very disruptive to his learning and the learning of the other children in the class.

I began by researching his Autism and physical needs, to find a connection and different strategies that I could implement. First, the National Autistic society suggests a visual routine and prompts. We have a visual timetable in our classroom however I hadn’t thought to go through this with the child. Therefore, each morning I would run through the order of the day for the whole class, so that he could hear what was going to be happening in the day. During every lesson, I place two photos on his table, one of his mum sitting down and another, which says ‘time to sit down’. Both of these visual supports have proven effective so far. He has stopped continuously asking what is happening next and when he is not sitting correctly, I have been tapping on his photos which has prompted him to change they way he is sitting without a fuss.

After speaking to a SEN/behaviour specialist, my second technique was to simplify my communication with him and allow him extra time to process information. I now give very easy and simple instructions e.g. Time to sit down. Get a pencil please. He is now following instructions without arguing most of the time and is producing better work as I am chunking what he needs to do into smaller steps.

Finally, the SEN/behaviour specialist stated how important it was to choose my battles. Instead of picking up on everything he wasn’t doing correctly, just choose 3 simple rules, communicate these to him and focus only on these. After speaking with his mum in an SEN review meeting, I have decided to allow him to hold his pencil incorrectly. Due to his physical needs, the ability to hold a pencil will deteriorate soon anyway, and I feel as long as he is doing his writing to a high standard, it doesn’t matter how he is holding a pencil. The 3 rules I chose to focus on were: sitting nicely, having kind hands and listening to the teacher. I showed the child these rules and now I only pick up on those rules, telling him ‘you are not following your rule’. Or, when he is, praising him for following the rules.

This child’s behaviour has in no way 100% improved, as this will take a lot of work, supported by other adults and specialists. However, it is slowly getting better due to my hard work and focus on adapting my teaching style to suit him and his needs. Every child with Autism is different and therefore not every strategy will work and will constantly change as he finds new interests and new challenges emerge. But, I will continue to work with him, his family and my colleagues to provide him a safe and stimulating learning environment where he can thrive.

It has made me focus on all of my SEN children more. Even though the other SEN children do not pose any challenges in the classroom, it has allowed to me adapt my teaching to suit their need as well. I have found the strategies I have been trialing, have also positively impacted the other SEN children and they too are finding some areas of learning easier to access. I cannot say that I would do anything differently, as Autism is a complex need and is different for each child, school and situation. However, if I could go back to the beginning of the year I would have made sure I had more of a presence and played a bigger part in settling him into the classroom. I am also considering implementing social stories for the child. He has been using them to overcome challenges at home and they have proved successful. I am going to be working with a specialist and the child’s parents to make these and hopefully this will help with areas of his behaviour and learning.

Focused next steps:

  • Create social stories around having kind hands and sitting correctly.
  • Trial strategies to help the child with his physical needs.
  • Communicate more with is parents for support and ideas.