Former SENCO, now outreach service teacher Moira Timpson is answering questions from concerned parents
Moira Timpson (pseudonym to protect the privacy of her students) qualified as a primary school teacher in 1978 and has been teaching ever since. She has taught in many mainstream primary schools in different parts of the country and also has worked in a dyslexia centre, a special school, and an autism resource provision.
Over the past 20 years she has worked primarily as a SENCO (A Special Educational Needs Coordinator in mainstream school).
Currently Moira works for an outreach service, offering support in the homes, to pupils who have medical conditions preventing them from accessing education in their school settings.
“Teaching is a vocation, not just a job, and I look forward to every day, knowing that I am helping pupils and families to move forward and achieve some success”, says Moira.
Question: I really need your advice on something I am puzzled over. My son was expelled from a mainstream school illegally even though two years before he coped well at another school. He ended up in a special needs school and was diagnosed with autism and ADHD.
How can I understand when my child's behaviour is a consequence of his special needs, and when is it the trauma due to the harsh measures of his school?
Are there any children (in your experience as a teacher) who were able to learn how to manage their aggression?
What helped them?
I am sorry to hear your son was expelled from a previous school.
His diagnosis, (although too late for the previous school) should now help everyone going forward, as teachers and others working with him will have more information about his needs.
There is always a reason for a child’s behaviour, whether it’s a behaviour you want to see, or a behaviour that you don’t wish to see again.
What you need to do is keep a diary of when the aggressive behaviour happens. Think of the place, what the child WAS JUST DOING before the aggression started, what you (or anybody) just asked the child to do, OR even what you (or somebody) just said to the child.
Once you start to write all this down you may see a pattern developing that you can then do something about.
In the meantime, put POST-IT notes up all over your house with REMINDERS on, to help you to give positive comments all the time...
Comments like...’I like it when ...’ (and you finish it off every time you see something you like that the child is doing, like talking quietly, moving around calmly, listening to you sensibly etc)
Other comment starters could be...
You make me happy when...
It is really nice to see you...
I hope this helps.
Question: I also have the same question. When is the school to blame and when is it my son’s special needs? I am so frightened of my son’s misconduct at school, and I am afraid of calls home that something is wrong again: he does not sit still; he sways on the chair (having finished the task by the way!).
What always amazes me is that the school knows he has special needs. Why then, do all teachers complain that he is not like everyone else? What can I do to reduce the number of complaints? The school is a mainstream one, with what seems a very capable SEN department.
I haven’t got the information about your son, but am wondering why you say the SEN team seem very capable, yet the teachers are all complaining about him?
I would suggest you go into school to speak with the teacher and the SENCo and ask them to write down the problems they are having in the classroom, then YOU may be able to give THEM some extra information about your son that may help...Like...what you do at home that helps him. After all, you as the parent know him best.
You could take with you a PUPIL PASSPORT, which gives details of all his likes, his dislikes, what triggers set him off to be disruptive or un-cooperative for example.
AS FOR THE CHAIR...have you tried a sensory cushion? Some pupils just need to have some sensory feedback to help keep them calm, OR even to have the opposite effect (to stimulate them)You may wish to try one at home first to see if it has a calming effect on him.
If this works for him then the school should be quite supportive in him using one in the classroom.
Also, think about where he is seated in the classroom...Some pupils prefer to be seated at the back of the room SO they are not suddenly surprised by noises and movements going on behind them that they are not ready for. MOST teachers put disruptive pupils at the front as they think they can keep an eye on them, but this does not always work FOR THE PUPIL.
Question: Dear Moira, My child has autism and high abilities in maths. Now he is disengaged at school. The school appeals to his anxiety. They even say about aggression, that I do not believe, because he is very kind at home with his family. The ASD-reach out special teacher advised on the EHCP annual review that the school does not meet his needs and we have to look for other specialist school. I am sure the school supports her because they are the team. Although we do not think that change the school is in the best interest of our child. What can we do? Do we have to look for the special (specialist provisions) schools? Is it any chance to stay in the mainstream education? We feel very unhappy because literally almost whole year we taught our child. Even he has EHCP, he was at home in all lockdowns. And the ASD-teacher writes that they are not meeting his needs. Thank you, Mother of child
I am sorry to hear you are having a hard time with school issues.
If your child has an EHCP then you really should go back and speak to the SENCo and ask them to write down all the things that they cannot provide to meet your son’s needs at this moment.
Ask the school (or contact the SEN department at the borough yourself) if there is an INDEPENDENT special needs advisory service in your borough and they will help you to sort through the paperwork and conditions stated in the EHCP.
When a child has a high ability in a particular subject it is very easy for them to get bored and become disengaged...it is quite common for this to happen in schools. The SENCo should be able to help (If you can provide examples of work he has been doing at home) by allowing him to work at his own level (he may need to borrow a textbook from the year above). I have seen this working well in several schools...some school also let the pupils actually sit in the year above for those lessons. (BUT, this also depends on how flexible your child is, he may not like the change)
Only you know whether a mainstream setting is best for your child, but I will say that sometimes a SPECIAL setting can provide those extra things your child may need, like occupational therapy, speech and communication therapy etc.
Hope this helps you.
Question: Dear Moira,
Can you explain your work as an outreach teacher?
Is it a good way to learn for children who had been excluded from school?
Outreach teaching is something that is not necessarily available in every educational borough.
I find that the teachers that have been recruited are often older, very experienced, and are flexible, able to provide bespoke lessons for the most complex (or ill) pupils.
It is a very worthwhile job and I love it.
Our pupils are diagnosed with medical needs, preventing them from accessing school (anxiety, operations, cancer, and many other conditions).
Whilst not in a school they receive several hours a week of 1-1 teaching in English, maths, science, or art/craft activities. But we also provide that very important mental health support, keeping them engaged, and hopefully ensuring a good transition when they are ready to return to formal education. Sometimes they go back to their own school, sometimes we help them to move into a completely different setting and we support them for a couple of weeks whilst they settle.
Pupils who have been excluded usually have an underlying condition that has not been dealt with or even been recognised as an additional need causing the behaviour that led to the exclusion. Pupils who spend a short time in a PRU (Pupil Referral Unit) often turn their behaviour round quite quickly. There is often more time to help, time to talk and a higher teacher/pupil ratio...all promoting better behaviour.
Schools often have their hands tied as not many have the money to provide extra staff to support pupils with complex and time-consuming needs. (SOME DO...and they do a brilliant job)
Hope this answers some of your questions.
Hand to Hold would like to thank Moira Timpson for her kind advice to the parents.
If you have any more questions to Moira, please, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
"Hand to Hold" is an initiative aimed to help Russian speaking families but not only with children with SEND in the UK. We are grateful for your support.