This week has been an exciting week for us as we have launched our new behaviour system. As with many things for children with SEN these sort of schemes often need a little tweaking and reimagining to work for them. The theory is we use it this half term when the children often need a little extra help with behaving and we can also iron out the little problems that are going to crop up along the way! It is a system based on a project run by the local education and psychology service. The scheme itself is aimed at mainstream children, started by an educational psychologist who has been a real inspiration to me during my career. The project itself is fab as it involves school and home and is a year long intervention so it’s not a quick fix but a supportive long term way of improving both child and adult’s behaviour.
Anyway we have taken on the principle which is that behaviour noticed and rewarded is more likely to repeated. Basically it’s all about positive behaviour management. Rewarding the good and encouraging others to copy the good behaviour of others. You do this by collecting treasures in a jar and once it is full the whole class get a reward. The treasures themselves caused a little bit of a headache as we have a couple of children who will still put things in their mouth. We have found larger treasures, glass nuggets, shells and shiny pom poms. So far the children haven’t touched them, they seem to know they are for the adults in class only, there is a first time for everything! The rewards are meant to be of their choosing but of course we make sure they choose what we want!
As all the children in my class have some form of speech and language delay or disorder we are very used to using succinct language, saying what we mean. So when praising the child we say why we are saying they are good. For example, well done, good sitting or I like the way you are waiting patiently. Being clear about why you are pleased with certain behaviour is important for all children but ours even more so.
This year has seen us all become quite imaginative at finding ways to encourage a child to do what we want them to do. We have children who, if given a direct instruction will just refuse. So we would say, how do you think this jigsaw should be don? I can’t figure out this jigsaw can you help? How many pieces are in this jigsaw? How long will it take to complete it? And so it goes on. We use “you need to” when we want a child to do something as this implies no choice. It is obviously working as a child told me I needed to let them play with the wow toys the other day! Reducing the number of times we say no to the children is also having a real positive impact. If a child asks to do choose something we say when you have done this job then you can have the tractor.
Sometimes though being positive and upbeat is really hard work. Sometimes I just want to say sit on your chair because that is what I want you to do. I don’t want to act all happy, cajole and praise you when you finally decide to sit on the bloody chair. Just sit on the chair now! I want to state for the record that I don’t do that out loud. But I have been known to be saying it in my head as I smile at the child who is more likely to throw the chair rather than sit on it!
So three days into the new reward system and the children have had lots of rewards, balloons, lucky dips, juice and biscuits and the noisy cars have all appeared! When focusing on behaviour the more formal side of teaching has to take a back seat but this is only for the short term and the children are already starting to respond much quicker to us. And when a child asks you to get the treasures as he needs a little help behaving it must be working a little!