Bert’s ‘Art of Communication’

In Uncategorized on July 27, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Little Bert is the youngest in the school and has such a fiesty temper. He is such a loving and sensative boy, however if he thinks someone has wronged him he will be on then in a second with all fists and feet flying into his target.  This often results in him being  pryed off another child by an adult and put in time out to calm down. Much of Bert’s frustration results from his communication difficulties and not being able to find the correct words to express what he is thinking, feeling and needs. This is a common problem with children who have communication difficulties and is a key area for behavioural problems…it all comes down to being understood.

Bert has learnt a few choice words however. He is clever enough to have figured out that if he swears and gives rude gestures he will get the attention he wants from both children and adults and generally something will be done about it.

This particular day we were out on a school trip to an outdoor playground where there were many other school groups, teachers and adults around. Bert came up to me with a very angry look on his face. His forehead was crinkled, his lip out and I could see him stomping across the playground to tell me something has happened that he was not happy about at all!

 What happened next was just one of those moments where you don’t know where to look or how to react…especially in a public place.

Bert stomped over to me, arms crossed and yelled at the top of his lungs…’JELLY’ (that is the name he calls me as he can’t pronounce my real name) …BOY… F###ING…ME!!’ And procedes to stick up his two middle fingers at me sharply with a glare, waiting for me to respond.

So what do I do? Every adult within earshot is looking at me.  You can imagine what they are thinking? This gorgeous little boy has just been violated in some way, what are you going to do about it? 

Personally… I know what he is trying to say and am trying to hold back my laughter at this whole situation, I mean you either laugh or you cry with embarrassment. But neither reaction is socially appropriate at this time with all the adults glaring at me hanging onto my next few words and how I am going to manage this horrific incident?

So I take a deep breath and ask Bert …’Did a boy swear at you?’

‘YES’ he replied abruptly.

‘Did he stick up his middle finger at you?’


‘Do you want me to come and get angry at him?’


‘Ok, I will. But we need to use the word ‘RUDE’ from now on. The boy is being rude to me.’

And off I went to find the culprit before Bert took the law into his own hands.

And with that I could feel the relief in the air around me from all the lookers-on, and hear the muffled giggles as I went to deal with Bert’s ‘rude’ boy.

I’m just glad he came to me…imagine if he had approached a police officer nearby?

Communicaton… it can be our greatest asset or biggest liability!



‘Pandamonium’ at the museum

In Uncategorized on July 24, 2009 at 8:23 am

My classes name is Panda Class. Seven gorgeous children between 9-10 years old who have a wide range of special needs, including behaviour difficulties, developmental delays, learning difficulties, emotional trauma, autistsm, delayed social and language development. A real mixed bag of challenges…but I love them all dearly!

Today however, my love and patience was well and truly tested.

We had a school outing to the Airforce Museum. We had seven children and three staff members, most people would agree that that is a pretty good student:teacher ratio.

However, add to the mix a whole new and stimulating environment filled with REAL airplanes (that you weren’t allowed to touch) a wide open hanger just asking to be used as a runway for unruly children and only a small piece of rope 12 inches off the ground (perfect tripping height!) to separate the two.

Within seconds  the battle was well and truly on! One child running this way, one child running that way, one jumping over the rope and up onto the plane with a security guard in pursuit.

One staff member running this way hoping to cut off the two runners, myself running after the jumper heading toward the aircraft with a warning sign ‘This Aircraft is Armed’ and one staff member corralling all the others into a confined area to minimise a full on ‘copycat stampede’!

Needless to say the rest of the day didn’t get much better. Multiple time-outs, physical restraints, kicking and screaming fits and general ‘pandamonium’  with all staff in ‘battle station mode’ trying to contain chaos for te next 4 hours, ending with First Aid being administerd  for one child who tripped on the ropes (although it wasn’t too serious thank goodness!)

After carrying most of the children back to the bus, and finally getting them on their buses to go home…we heading to the pub with my ‘shell shocked’ staff for a defrief of todays carnage.

So what did we learn from today?

1. We need more staff for outings, thats for sure!

2. We should have done a reconiscance of the situation to prepare the children and give them the ground rules before entering the building in a safe and contained area.

3. Big open spaces filled with exciting objects can over-excite and overwhelm some children. They need to know how to handle this situation and we need to be able to manage it and teach them how BEFORE hand.

4. What was management thinking about putting a small insignificant tripable barrier to try and protect ARMED aircrafts?!

5. Never underestimate children!

That pint of beer honestly never tasted so good!


Little Sam’s ‘gut instinct’

In Uncategorized on July 22, 2009 at 7:06 pm

I love Sam…honestly I think I could adopt this little cherub with his cheeky grin and button nose…however he is one of  THE most stubborn children I have ever taught! When he sticks his heels in and says ‘No!’ It really can become extremely frustrating and takes forever to get through to him and for him to come around.

 However until today I have been able to snap him out of it with some playful ‘coochycoo’ language to make him smile. Once he smiles I know I have him and then the world is a happy place once again.

However today the ‘coochycoo’ just wasn’t going to cut it for darling Little Sam.

After almost 20 mins of trying to get him off the computer to go to his music lesson…I was getting nowhere and my frustration levels were rising, and I could feel myself wanting to yell at him. But ofcourse I knew this would just make matters worse as poor Sam comes from a home where he is yelled at alot and often physically abused by his father (who also has special needs)…so that strategy was well and truly off the cards and my ‘teacher bag of tricks’ was totally and utterly bare!!

What to do? If I give up and just let him stay this will quite possibly create a new pattern of behaviour. Everytime he doesn’t want to go somewhere he can sit on the computer, say ‘No’ and will get to have some fun. My only other option would be to phycially remove him…which would create a struggle, end in anger, time-out and unhappiness all round for us both.

Out of pure desperation to try and get through to him I started to talk to his tummy… ‘excuse me Mr Tum, are you feeling a bit sad today?’

To my surprise…the tummy talked back to me and said ‘Yes’ (through Sam) Hallejulah! At least I was getting something other than ‘NO’.

I continued talking to the tum. ‘Why are you sad Mr Tum?’

‘Because Sam is making bad choices’ was the reply.

‘Do you think that Sam might be able to make a good choice and go to music?’

‘Yes’ was the reply…and then the smile came…PHEW!!

‘Would Mr Tum like a cuddle?’

‘Yes.’ so I gave him a cuddle and he held my hand and we went to music. On the way Mr Tum then proceeded to say ‘Hello’ to everyone we met. We were met with a strange look by staff but once I told then that ‘his tummy  is talking to them as we seem to be having more of a chance of getting through to the tum than the head today’, they all went along with it and said ‘hello’ back.

I guess this was a perfect example of  using your ‘gut instinct’.

Children, especially special needs children really do amaze me everyday…and are constantly pushing me to think outside the box and re-evaluate my personal reactions to being frustrated…next time I feel this way, I might just sit down and have a good long talk with my own tum and see what happens? (I will try and do this in the privacy of my own home though).