Tag Archives: special education

Top 10 Tips for Disciplining Children with Challenging Behaviour

When it comes to teaching and parenting, one of the most talked about topics is discipline and behaviour. Most of us expect children to behave in certain ways – with respect, listen and respond appropriately, have infrequent tantrums, etc. Getting children to behave in these ways is not always easy. Even though a lot of children respond to our unique ways of disciplining, a few of them may display more challenging behaviours that are persistent and could seem uncontrollable – from theirs and your point of view. Below is a list of strategies and tips that has worked for me in schools and different settings over the years.

(It may be usefult for you to read Understanding Children’s Behaviour as well)

10. Know what the triggers are – Every behaviour is triggered by something. Find out what it is.

Potential triggers:

  • Medical diagnosis  (Autism, ADHD, etc.)- Please note that I am not saying that having a diagnosis is an excuse or a ticket to behave badly. What I am saying is that a diagnosis provides a signpost on what interventions you could use.
  • Medication – some kids on Ritalin could become hyperactive as the medication wears off
  • Sensory Stimuli such as noise, certain smells, bright or dim lighting, temperature– Some children are very sensitive to sensory stimuli and tend to react in unconventional ways when they encounter an unbearable one. If they are not able to communicate this discomfort through words, they may act out.
  • Change in routine (substitute teacher/Teaching Assistant, cancelled or swapped classes)- This is not specific to children with Autism. I have encountered children with no diagnoses who were unsettled by changes in routine.
  • Home life- problems and/ or changes at home
  • Bullying– It is worth investigating whether your student in question is being bullied by others when you are not looking. Not all children will report bullying.
  • Relationship with classmates– Investigate their relationships with other children. Are they getting enough attention, and if so, what kind of attention are they getting? If they are not getting any attention, make sure that you find out why.

9. Find out what the student’s receptive and expressive language skills are.

A lot of our behaviours are forms of communication. If children are not able to verbally express what they are feeling (see above), there is an increased chance that they would ‘act it out’. This can also happen if they do not understand what the others are telling them. Some children struggle to read body language, understand people’s tone of voice and/ or metaphors. If this is the case, you can organise for them to have lessons wherein you or other professional(s) will explicitly teach them these things.

8. Give them chances to succeed.

Give small targets that are achievable by the students. Set them up to succeed. For example, instead of asking them to ‘be quiet inside the classroom at all times’, you could start by asking them to ‘try to be quiet during carpet times’ (Primary school) or ‘try to be quiet when the teacher is talking’.

7. Give praise that is specific, well-explained and well-earned.

Never give blanket praises such as ‘good job’, ‘excellent’, ‘well done’, unless they are followed by a brief explanation of why you said what you said. Let them know why and which part of their work is amazing. You could say for example: ‘well done for colouring within the lines’ instead of ‘good work’.

6. Approach them positively.

Try not to shout and try not to be negative. Humour definitely helps. If the children understand figures of speech and metaphors, sarcasm can be an excellent tool. I found that students of any age are more likely to listen and change their behaviour if I approach them positively.

5. Tell them what to do instead of what not to do.

There are a lot of research that suggests that if you tell someone to ‘not play on the stairs’, they would. This is because what registered in that person’s brain is ‘play on the stairs’. Even though some children will hear you loud and clear, chances are, they will not know what to do instead of the undesirable behaviour. Quite a lot of teachers always tell students ‘not to fight’, but a lot of these children may only know one way to behave. If this is the case, how can they behave appropriately if you are not telling them what tappropriate behaviour is?

4. Be consistent.

You should be firm and fair all the time. Punishments and rewards should be handed out consistently – not only when you feel like it.

3. Remember that behaviour can be changed.

The whole point of your efforts trying to make your students behave appropriately relies on your belief about behaviours and attitudes. If you believe that we were born with a set of attitudes that make us behave in a certain way which cannot be changed, you need to think again. Although genetics play a part in the development of our attitudes and behaviours, the people around us and our experiences also have big contributions. We should keep in mind that everyone is capable of changing, especially our students.

2. Communicate effectively with the children’s parents/ primary carers.

For any intervention to work, the children’s school and home should work in concert with each other. Although it may be a good start, it shouldn’t be enough that your students behave really well in school but throws tantrums and go wild at home (or vice versa). Having an effective professional relationship with your students’ parents/ carers is one of the most important factors in helping children behave appropriately. Regular communications through phone calls, emails, face-to-face meetings will help increase the likelihood that interventions will be carried out in both settings.

1. Set an example.

Kids will follow and copy your actions. If you practice what you preach, then you have won half the battle. Always remember that your students are far brighter than you think. They will start ignoring your advice and you will lose their respect if you do not walk your talk. Here are a few examples you can set:

  • Admit your mistakes publicly. You will make a mistake today- trust me. When you do, do not be ashamed to admit it.
  • Apologise to your students. When you make mistakes, say sorry. Explicitly let them know that even you can make mistakes, but your apology and subsequent actions are what matters most.
  • Respect your colleagues. Never say anything bad about your co-teachers, no matter what. Students notice how you treat other people and indirectly learn from your example.

Other bonus tips:

Get To Know Your Students Better

Positive Words and Phrases to Use in School

Judging a Book by its Cover – Daily Prompt

Today’s Daily Prompt asked: ‘Does it ever make sense to judge a book by its cover – literally or metaphorically? Tell us about a time you did, and whether it was a good decision or not.

Our brains are lazy. Most brains rely heavily on the easiest way to solve any problems at hand. One of the ways they do so is by creating schemas (patterns of thoughts and behaviours that organizes categories of information and the relationships between them). In other words, our brains make associations between thoughts, feelings, people and situations, and then stores those associations so that it will be easier for the brain to recall next time. For instance, we may think that blonde girls are dumb if we have previously met a lot of blonde-haired women with seemingly low-level intelligence (exposure to media, joke books and other people’s opinions also help strengthen this association).

Schemas may help save us some time and may save us from danger, but if we do not challenge them, they can develop into stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination. Not all women with blonde hairs are dumb. Not all people of African descent are athletic. Not all kids with Special Educational Needs have low-intelligence. My point is that our schemas and stereotypes can be wrong and we need to be aware of it.

I have ‘judged a book by its cover’ a lot of times before. In fact, I do it most of the time. When I am walking alone on a dark alley or riding the bus late at night, I keep away from drunks and suspicious-looking people to keep me safe. Is it wrong? Yes, because not all of them are dangerous. But I still do it. I am not sure if I should change that particular reaction, even though I know that I may be wring 99% of the time. What I avoid is passing judgement too quickly in non-threatening situations. I try to keep an open mind everytime. I know that everyone that I meet is fighting a hard battle.

 

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Gone with the Windfall – Inclusive School in the Philippines

Today’s Daily Prompt askedYou just inherited $1,000,000 from an aunt you didn’t even know existed. What’s the first thing you buy (or otherwise use the money for)?

$1,000,000 can go a long way. I would use most of it to build an inclusive primary school in the Philippines – the country where I was born. The school will cater for students of all abilities, socio-economic status, religion, gender, etc. It will not discriminate. It will show other schools how it should be done. We will provide a high quality education and will also provide training for parents of children with various needs. I would employ staff that have an open mind, great character and superb knack for teaching. The facilities will be able to cater for kids with disabilities.

One may ask why I would not buy a house, car or whatever for myself. I thought about it, but kids back home would need this school much more than I need those material things. Plus, helping them would make me happy!!

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Don’t Miss The Autism Show!

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The Autism Show is an event dedicated to the people working with, living with, and teaching individuals with Autism Spectrum Conditions. The show takes place in London and Manchester next month, with presenters who are leading professionals in their fields. Also speaking are some parents and individuals with Autism to share new strategies and their experiences.

Headline speakers this year include , Dame Stephanie Shirley, successful entrepreneur, philanthropist and autism campaigner, Janis Sharp, mother of Gary McKinnon, Carrie and David Grant, TV presenters and parents of two children with autism, and Baroness Angela Browning, Vice President of the National Autistic Society, Patron of Reseach Autism and instigator of the Autism Act 2009

From The Autism Show’s official website

For more information and to book your tickets, visit www.theautismshow.co.uk

Teaching and Learning with LEGO

lego1Parents and teachers of kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) including myself, are always looking for different ways and materials to teach many different skills. We want their learning to be as exciting as it is informative to them. In all of my years of working with pupils with ASD, there hasn’t been an equipment/tool most effective than Lego. First and foremost, there are very, very few kids who do not like playing with, or even looking at Lego. They are brightly coloured blocks which is usually associated with FUN and PLAY; not school/ learning. Its association with fun is the most important thing to remember, especially (but not exclusively) when the children are really young, since the lessons can be disguised as play (remember this when your students aren’t cooperating in structured lessons).

So what lessons can we teach them through Lego?

Sorting

Through Lego, we can teach kids with ASD different ways of sorting and grouping things. Lego can help reinforce the lessons they have learned in school. They can sort the pieces by colour, sizes and shapes. Of course, we could extend this by giving them say, 5 pieces and asking them which one is the ‘odd one out’.
lego people

We can also use the Lego men and women to teach gender. A lot of young individuals with Autism that I have worked with initially struggled with identifying the gender of their peers, and having them inspect the (potentially) non-threatening plastic faces of the Lego characters have helped them greatly with this issue. Identifying a Lego figure’s gender is of course very different to identifying a real person’s, but learning through these plastic figures is a major step that needs to be taken forward.

 

models

Counting

Learning to count is always easier when you’re counting something you like. Having children count the pieces that they have or counting with them can help reinforce numeracy skills. Asking questions such as ‘how many wheels does that car in your hand have?’ or how many trees do I have in my hands?’ can be a lot easier for them to answer compared to worksheets. Also, They can put Lego pieces together to build the numbers (see picture on the left).

Fine Motor Skills and Coordination

Many children with Autism have developmental delays in motor skills and coordination. Playing with Lego can help improve these skills. Having them manipulate those blocks by putting one on top of the other and taking them apart can help train their finger and hand muscles to great effect. Also, by using both hands while playing, their coordination could improve. 

Social Skills:

Expressive and Receptive Language

Playing any type of games can help develop children’s language. Expressive and receptive language can be improved by regularly asking questions about the game/ pieces that they have. Also, emplying what Speech and Language Therapists call ‘Sabotage technique’ wherein you withhold something that they want until they say the correct phrase of asking for it (e.g. ‘please may I have the black wheel for my car?’). They can also be explicitly taught to follow instructions while playing.

Sharing sharing

‘What’s mine is mine’ is often one of the biggest problem parents have with their children. Parents can teach their children how to share by playing Lego with them and modelling different ways of sharing and compromise. Explicitly saying ‘it’s your turn to pick a piece’; ‘it’s OK if you have that piece’; ‘I’ll have this piece instead’ or ‘thank you for giving me this piece’ can help build up the children’s vocabulary, whilst learning what sharing means at the same time.

Imagination and Planning

It may be a hard task to teach a child how to imagine something, but giving them a platform to do so will help stimulate their imagination. Asking them to build a blue tower or a green and white house gives them a chance to both imagine what the house or tower would look like and how they will do it. These abilities vary from one child to the next and tailoring each task to an individual’s skill set is definitely necessary.