On the 25th June, Helena from Axcis London went along to the NAS conference on Understanding and Supporting Challenging Behaviour in Reading. The conference was an excellent opportunity to hear the latest research from experts in the field and gave delegates plenty of practical strategies for recognising early warning signs and making positive interventions, as well as understanding causes of challenging behaviours and how to reduce potential triggers.
Many of the delegates who spoke to Helena commented on how useful much of the information was, and how they would be putting many of the ideas into practice when they returned to their prospective schools. Several visitors to the Axcis stand commented that they had been given “plenty to think about!”
Behaviour in the news
Behaviour has been a hot topic in the news recently, with the DfE announcing that they will be appointing behaviour expert Tom Bennett to develop new training that backs teachers and deals with low-level disruption in classrooms – which costs pupils an hour of learning a day – equivalent to 38 days of learning a year lost to poor behaviour. This initiative appears to be aimed at mainstream schools, with the intention of increasing overall performance figures of the schools and students concerned. The premise is a sound one, with the idea that it will be;
“giving every child the chance to go to a great school, securing them a brighter future and giving families the assurance that their children are getting the very best education and opportunities.” (DfE)
While this is all very well for mainstream schools, it is not likely that this additional training and support for teachers will be particularly relevant for the more challenging behaviours seen in many specialist schools, including schools for autism. The new government has yet to outline their intentions for special needs schools, but promises to do so in the autumn.
NAS leading the way for ASD research, training and support
In the meantime, organisations such as the NAS are still leading the way in the development of good practice in this area. Last week’s conference focussed on those working in specialist ASD environments, and stressed the importance of understanding the triggers behind challenging behaviour for those young people on the spectrum as well as understanding the causes of these behaviours in order to manage them before they manifest.
This is one of the key reasons why consistent staffing is so important – particularly for SEND schools. It is hard enough for children who do not particularly struggle to engage with education to cope with changes in staffing (ask any supply teacher who has worked a day in their local secondary school). For students with special educational needs, it can be very difficult to adapt to new staff members, especially for those with social, emotional or communication needs. It may have taken their LSA or teacher several months to build rapport with such individuals, and to develop the skills to recognise when a student is reaching “meltdown point” as well as the best way to manage this situation. A new member of staff is less likely to be able to predict the behaviour of the pupil they are working with, even with a positive handling plan in place, and hence behaviour is more likely to spiral out of control – creating a situation which is potentially harmful to both staff and students in the class.
This is why, at Axcis, we are so very proud to support the National Autistic Society. We want to help spread good practice around working with children and young people on the spectrum by offering quality training and support to our supply staff. As the leading SEND recruiter in the UK, we are also doing this through our own internal staff training and understanding how to match appropriate staff to the schools and individuals with whom we work.