Ciaran teaches in a primary school in Ireland. He qualified three years ago. He tells the story of one of his pupils whose behaviour is particularly challenging:
“Last year I had a class of nine and ten year olds. One of the boys, Niall, had cerebral palsy. That was tricky enough to deal with, as I had never really come across anyone with that before, and we had learnt nothing about it during my teacher training. There just wasn’t time as I did a one year postgrad course. Anyway, I quickly learnt that Niall was very bright but was also very cheeky and manipulative.
He was very quick to make nasty comments to his peers and even tripped up one of the other boys in his class as he went past. I found this really hard to deal with. I think I expected Niall to be the victim of bullying in the class, but in this case he was actually the perpetrator. I felt that I was tiptoeing aroung Niall a lot at the start because I didn’t want to be accused of picking on him. That would have been taken very badly. So for the first few weeks of the year, I did very little to tackle his behaviour, to be honest with you. After half-term, though, there was an incident when Niall said some pretty nasty things to one of the boys who would be very weak academically. You know, calling him “stupid” and “thick” and so on. I knew I needed to act, and so I did…”
Questions for reflection:
- What makes Ciaran’s experience particularly challenging?
- What insight does this give into the nature of bullying in schools, especially in relation to special educational needs/disabilities?
- What would you have done in Ciaran’s situation? Why?
Image of Child putting coat on
Mr and Mrs McIlgorm have three children. The eldest has an ASD and is at a special school. Paul (see case study) is in P1. As soon as Paul knows it is time for home he has his coat on and is outside the door waiting for his mother. Unfortunately Mrs McIlgorm chooses to pick up her daughter first from the classroom across the playground. She frequently finds someone to talk to while Paul jumps up and down, getting increasingly upset until he starts to scream. When his mother eventually comes across she inevitably wants to know everything that Paul has done that day and how he is progressing. The teacher has an older class 3 afternoons a week and can’t stand around talking to parents. Mrs McIlgorm will also often come into the classroom in the morning with Paul and ask about what he is going to do that day.
Image of Family in car
Mr and Mrs Black live about 7 miles from Strabane. They have three children, two already attending the local 3 teacher school. Their youngest child Ben has autism. They had been hoping he could attend the same school as his siblings but they have said they don’t feel they can cope, so reluctantly Mr and Mrs Black looked around for another mainstream school. Because of his severe problems it proved difficult to find such a place.
Eventually a larger school with an impressive record of teaching children with special needs, agreed to take Ben on a trial basis although they did suggest he be placed in their special unit rather than in an ordinary class. In P1 he was first allocated 15 hours a week support from a classroom assistant but despite this he still had tantrums where he screeched at the top of his voice, lay under the tables and wandered the room constantly. His support was increased to 25 hours. Despite this he was never able to stay in school beyond mid-day. The year had been very difficult for the class teacher – she had had to restructure her whole class, sometimes having the classroom assistant leading the rest of the class while she attempted to teach Ben. Despite regular entreaties to the parents they insisted he could cope with mainstream education, until eventually the principal was forced to tell them Ben would be suspended unless they agreed to placing him in the special unit attached to the school. This they reluctantly agreed to do.
Image of child (Jason)
Jason is ten years old. He appears to have normal ability and enjoys class and the company of his peers. He does however, find it very hard to stay quiet for more than a few minutes. He frequently interrupts the teacher by making strange noises or gestures which the other children find amusing. His class teacher finds this behaviour most annoying, has frequently rebuked him for this but to no effect. She has recently begun to keep a notebook of his behaviour. One of the targets she has set him in class is to be able to sit quiet and still for at least 15 minutes each hour. She feels that Jason’s behaviour problems are sufficient to have him labelled as having emotional and behavioural problems and therefore he may need statemented.
Jason’s mother has tried to explain that his problems are due to Tourette’s Syndrome and that Jason is not deliberately disrupting the class. She is concerned that he is now coming home from school distressed and unhappy and is reluctant to go in the morning and is trying to convince the school that all he needs is the opportunity to have a few minute’s time out when he feels the compulsion to have a ‘tic’.
Image of Children watching TV
Jack is 9. He has recently been diagnosed as having Aspergers’ Syndrome. In class he was always moving about and constantly trying to attract the attention of the teacher or other children. He always seemed to be looking for something or adjusting an item of clothing or something under his desk or in his schoolbag.
Jack’s class almost always watched a T.V. program on the same day each week. Jack enjoyed this and managed to concentrate for the 12 minutes of the video. However, one day his teacher was off sick and there was a substitute teacher. For some reason, she did not show the programme. This really upset Jack who spent nearly an hour muttering about a T.V. and a Video. he wouldn’t do any work and was very agitated and unsettled.
Jack liked to be part of a group and he liked to be friendly but he had not learned how to behave with different people and greeted everybody with a kiss and a hug even if he had never met them before. He also seemed to like physical contact. This was a problem as the boys used this as a reason to tease him about his sexuality and it was behaviour which many girls’ parents did not approve of.
Image of Active Child
Sally is 15 and is a bright girl. She is in the top stream for English, history and French and is expected to get top grades in most of her GCSEs. However, she is in the bottom set for Maths. She has always found maths a problem but has usually found ways of getting round it and is adept at using a calculator. On working with Sally it was noticed that she could not apply maths patterns; she could not see how 5 + 3 could relate to 15 + 13 nor could she understand whether 37 or 32 was nearest to 40. Although Sally could rhyme off the times tables she could not apply them. By GCSE stage it was really too late to help Sally properly; she had developed ingrained avoidance tactics for maths and had not enough self-confidence to make much progress.
Image of Boy standing
Gary is 13. He has dyslexia and has been receiving help for this. He then told his teacher he found maths difficult but wanted to do well. In class he said he often thought he knew the answers and put his hand up only to be laughed at when he got it wrong. It was discovered that the difficulty lay in the fact that he found the reading and understanding of maths questions to be a problem related to his dyslexia. His memory was also poor and so he was picking up on single words and not the whole question. When he used a calculator he was entering the wrong figures and also misreading the answers. The strategy used here was to work with the learning support teacher in advance of the lessons, discussing the language which would be used and also reinforcing basic skills regularly.
Two girls, Kathleen and Jennifer are both are now at High School, after successful transition. The two girls were very different personalities, one, Kathleen, much more compliant and more able than the other. The other girl, Jennfier, with a great sense of humour, also had a heart complaint, for which finally, after much fighting by the parents, she was able to receive surgery. She was kept in primary school an additional year, as she’d missed so much schooling due to ill health.
Both girls were visual learners, Jennifer was slow to speak and Makaton was used with her when she first came into Nursery. The school also used multisensory techniques and received much support from home. Things they found worked really well:
- A home / school book which went daily between home and school for passing information and saying what the child had been doing at home or school to enable them to key into things that had direct relevance to the child.
- Support from an able and well trained classroom assistant.
- A great deal of direct teaching. It was found that the teacher had to make all the connections for them. They would learn a skill, but be unable to transfer that skill to a different task unless they were shown the relationship.
- Very clear behaviour boundaries. If a thing was not allowed, it had to be not allowed in every situation. Jennifer particularly couldn’t understand that something was OK in one setting but not in another. For example, the school had to stop the lunchtime staff playing hide and seek with her because she thought it was OK to hide from the teachers and her mum at inappropriate times.
- Clear rewards and ‘punishments’. Some would call it bribery! for example, if Jennifer co-operated and did her jobs, then she was allowed to play with the guinea pig at school, or watch Animal Hospital at home. If she didn’t co-operate, then these things were withheld. A reminder of this mostly resulted in the desired response.
Eamonn is nine and on psychologist’s tests appears to be of average ability. He did score low though on tests which measure his auditory sequential memory. Eamonn hears and can use individual sounds but has trouble blending them together. He needs to have regular practise using onset and rhyming activities.
In class Eamonn’s teacher complains that he doesn’t listen or pay attention. He has a limited sight vocabulary. He does not take time to study words and will guess the word from the context or from the initial sound.
He has major problems with spelling, confusing fish as fhis and on as no, most as mots etc. If Eamon tries to sound a word he can often do it with the initial sound but if he is asked to repeat it without initial sound he cannot, e.g He can sound ‘boat’ but without the ‘b’ he has great difficulty. Eamon enjoys using the computer.
Report of the Task Group on Dyslexia
Recommendations on educational provision for children and young people with autism in the North and Republic of Ireland
Lisa is 12 and is bilingual speaking German as her mother tongue. Having moved to Britain a few years ago she never learned to write in German but speaks it fluently. She has been referred to the SENCO because she was finding it hard to settle in school. She achieved level 4 in English in her Key Stage 2 (age 10/11) assessments. She wanted to use her German and so appealed to the Modern Foreign Languages department for help. One of the teachers volunteered to help her during lunch breaks.
After six months Lisa and her teacher decided to try the GCSE mock exam in German. She did very well in her coursework and her speaking, listening and reading. However, she had a problem with German spelling as she spelt the words with English phonetics. The teacher has had to devise a way of teaching her to spell German correctly. She sat her GCSE in May when she was 12.5.
In addition to her bilinguality she shows great initiative and diplomatic skills and has made her own arrangements for exam entry and enrolled herself on revision classes given by other teachers in the MFL department. She uses the Internet to take part in discussions with other German youngsters and makes sure she is aware of and involved in any activities other GCSE German students are doing.
Paul is 4 and has been in P1 for a few months. He has an older sister in P3. It is very obvious that while the other children have settled down to school routine Paul is finding it very difficult. He seems to be quite a bright child but when persuaded to sit with the rest of the class, will not put his hand up, shouts out and demands the teacher’s attention at all times. He does not play with other children but will hit them and push them away. He needs to be first in the line for dinner or P.E. etc.
If he doesn’t get the attention he wants or if he is not allowed to be first in line, he will start crying hysterically and scream and kick. On a few occasions when this happened the young teacher relented and persuaded the others to let Paul go first. He is well aware of the timing of the day’s events and when it is close to home time Paul will fetch his coat, put it on and regularly run out of the classroom without waiting to be told to go.
Report of the Task Group on Autism – Recommendations on educational provision for children and young people with autism in the North and Republic of Ireland.