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Challenging behaviour in SLD School

Discussion in 'Special educational needs' started by pam5923, Jan 24, 2018.

  1. pam5923

    pam5923 New commenter


    I teach a class of 7 pupils all with a diagnosis of ASC, ranging in age from 11 to 14. It is a class with some pupils who have challenging behviours which can lead to harm of both adults and other pupils.

    One of the pupils has recently been attending school mornings only with the idea of preventing a permanent exculsion. There are plans to find an alternative placement for him but in the meantime, he is remaining in the class. As far as possible the class is separated in order to avoid too much disruption in the education of the other 6 pupils. This requires him to be staffed by 2 staff members, which are rotated but all familiar to him.

    His behaviours include low level spitting in general but then leads to spitting directly in your face, self-induced vomitting and then he will deliberately poo in his hand or dig for poo and throw it directly at the adults working with him or smear it. This happens on a daily basis. The staff and myself are responsible for cleaning him up after these incidents and also to clean up any areas that have been soiled.

    He has a positive behaviour plan which includes as a last resort to offer a calm space. Often when he chooses the calm space, he will then spit, vomit or smear in the room. We have very little support from the Senior Leaders.

    I have contacted my Union as my staff and I are no longer prepared to continue in this way. They have suggested that we have a plan too support staff once all the strategies from his behaviour plan have been exhausted. Does anybody else have such a support plan in place for staff?

    We are not a behavioural school but a school for pupils with severe and profound learning difficulties.

  2. dzil

    dzil Occasional commenter

    I'm not the best person to answer this, I am a bit rusty as I've not had personal experience of teaching young people with this need for a few years. I know there are a lot of other people on here with far more knowledge in this are than I have. I just didn't want you to feel no one is listening. I really feel for you it's so hard dealing with this.
    I have a lot of questions that might help guide you, but few answers I'm afraid. The situation you describe is not uncommon. The answers depend on the individual and his interactions and experience.

    It sounds like your young man has got some sensory needs that are not being met. These behaviours are his way of communicating that. What sort of sensory input are you offering him? Is there an OT that you could ask for advice? What do other colleagues advise? what happens at home? Is there a situation in which he doesn't do this? (Incredibly hard for you but does he really do it ALL the time?) Is there a trigger? This may be something so small to you that you haven't noticed like the hum of the fluorescent light, or the smell of the classroom. Maybe your room is offering too high a sensory input leading to sensory overload for him. Your other pupils may need it but it may actually hurt him. I know I find it difficult to stay calm if there is fluorescent backing paper on a display board, and I'm a neurotypical, reasonably well regulated teacher!

    The trick is to work out from his point of view what he is trying to communicate and what he needs. - easier said than done.

    I assume you've gone through all of the usual behavioural techniques to stop him or lesson his behaviour or replace it with something more acceptable, so forgive me of this is too basic, I am not trying to criticise, I do know from personal experience that in the midst of socially unacceptable behaviour it's easy to loose sight of the simple things.

    Can you remove or lessen the trigger? Switch off the lights, change the smell, lower the sensory input?

    Can you give him something before he starts or escalates that is similar to the sensations he is finding for himself - e.g. if you feel it might be the texture of the poo, let him play with gak or slime or dough when he arrives and is calm. Or is the spitting for the wet sensation - offer safe, clean water to dabble in, maybe a water spray? Maybe a water spray with paint and paper on the wall to spray at? If it's the sensation of the pressure of the mouth from spitting you could try blow painting with straws or blow football or anything that creates that pressure and release sensation in his mouth in a safe way.. maybe one of those plastic whistles that you fill with water and make a bird noise when you blow?

    As I said, there are far more experienced people on this forum that have much better ideas than me for dealing with this so hopefully the will be able to support you better.
    JulesDaulby, ClearAutism and pam5923 like this.
  3. theluckycat

    theluckycat Occasional commenter

    Agree with the sensory displacement advice as above. Something that would give him the sensory input (slime etc), might help to displace his sensory-seeking need in a less disruptive way. Spitting-oral activities, as above. Sounds very challenging and you're doubtless doing a great job in dealing with this.
    pam5923 likes this.
  4. pam5923

    pam5923 New commenter

    Thank you both for your replies and positive comments. We offer slime, play dough etc. We used to do water but stopped as it ended up all over everyone but I guess that's better than the alternatives

    It actually is happening every day at the moment!!
  5. ClearAutism

    ClearAutism New commenter

    Some excellent advice here already. I'm sorry that you're struggling with this, it can't be easy.

    I believe @dzil's suggestion on finding a trigger is absolutely key. There is always, always a trigger for behaviour and until you find out what that is and address it, then I'm afraid you're doomed to repeat the cycle. As the saying goes, "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got."

    There are so many reasons why this kind of behaviour could be happening. Others have mentioned sensory issues, which is a great place to start. Others are:

    Physiological eg undiagnosed/untreated physical illness, hunger, fatigue
    Emotional eg anger, fear, frustration
    Mental health issues like stress or anxiety (very common for autistics)

    Finding the "why" means getting your deerstalker on and your notebook out.

    You need to look not only what is happening (which you have described here in admirably objective language - that's hard to do) but also:
    • when it's happening (what time? before/after lunch/break? In a particular lesson?),
    • where (back/front of the class? near the window/door/radiator?),
    • who is there when it happens (is a person, intentionally or not, somehow setting it off?).
    Look for a pattern.

    Also look at the consequences. Could they be somehow rewarding? If he's watching you clean up the mess he has made then maybe it's about control - perhaps he has very little agency in his life and this is a way of getting some (this is pure speculation, obviously, as I have never met the lad).

    Perhaps the hardest thing to remember is that this isn't about you. This is a child with a communication disability who is clearly in some distress. I hope you find a solution and the support you're looking for.

    Good luck.
    JulesDaulby, dzil and pam5923 like this.
  6. sepierpoint

    sepierpoint New commenter

    Wow, this sounds like such a tricky situation.

    As others have said, behaviour is ALWAYS a method of communication and often in these situations you are clutching at straws, trying to second guess and becoming very stressed. I implemented the '5p approach' in my school to help get to the bottom of such behaviors in a systematic way. It doesn't help elevate the behaviour when it gets to its climax, but it most certainly helps prevent getting there.

    For detailed info look here http://5papproach.co.uk/index.html and I would really recommend buying the book.
    But in brief

    Step one is creating a 'Green' environment. That's really highlighting your best practice, which I am sure you already do, but is the 1st thing to go when we go into crisis: (calm voices, minimal language, visual support etc etc etc)

    P 1 is Profile. You need to find out what the pupil likes, what he dislikes, how he communicate and sensory issues (these will become your tools later on)

    P2 is Prioritising : You cant tackle everything at once. You need to work out which behaviours are red- amber-green. Then start by tackling red. I recommend my staff only tackle 1 or 2 at a time.

    P3 is Problem Analysis: recording exactly what happens, before during and after. It is very systematic and seems like a lot of paper work but REALLY helps.

    P4 is problem solving: looking back over the records to find behaviours, triggers, patterns

    P5 is planning: what do we do next to prevent it happening again.

    What I love about this system is that it is very reflective and really gets you to look at your practice and acknowledge our own behaviours which may not help in the tricky situations.

    I really hope this helps. There won't be a quick fix because the behaviours have become routine. but this really gets to the bottom of the problem rather than band aid over it.
    JulesDaulby and ClearAutism like this.
  7. JulesDaulby

    JulesDaulby Occasional commenter

    Amazing advice and I don't need to add. I am however concerned that you feel your senior leadership team are not supporting you and your colleagues. If possible I'd call an urgent meeting about this - detail your concerns and list what you need from them. It may be some external expert advice could help, as you say your expertise is more PMLD. Good luck, it sounds a very stressful situation.

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