Managing emotionally disturbed pupils

  • If a child is in a potentially disturbing situation, try to remove him/her from it.
    E.g. If he/she is being confronted by another child in the class, divert his/her attention by asking him/her to fetch someone for you.Make sure all staff that are likely to be in contact with the pupil are aware of the problem and have an agreed strategy to deal with situations.
  • Try to explain problem to peers and ask for their help in alerting you to potential problem situations.
  • Introduce new work concepts very slowly and cautiously and give rewards regularly for success.
  • Try to discover the interests of the child and build a sense of friendship through them.
  • If the child does have a temper tantrum, do not confront him.  If he/she is in danger of hurting himself/herself or others, he/she may need restrained.  Try to put him somewhere he/she can be on his/her own.
  • Encourage a pupil to indicate when he/she is feeling particularly upset.  This could be done by drawing unhappy faces at particular stages of his/her work or in a daily record chart etc.  Analysis of this might enable the detection of particular trigger factors.


This is a technique in which you change the viewpoint in relation to a situation which has been experienced. You are using the same facts to fit the situation. The idea is to help the pupil see a different aspect of a situation.


When teaching, instead of pointing out particular children to answer a question, you might say, “Now I wonder who will answer this question?”
If a child is constantly out of his seat etc, you might say, “Jimmy, you’ve got to choose whether you are going to sit down and listen or whether you will take some work into the classroom next door until we’ve finished this activity.”

Further Information

Helping Children Cope with Anger
Social and Emotional Skills Programme (from
Several booklets for young people have been published by the Foundation for People with Learning Difficulties.