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Dear Tom Being assaulted every week and Head not acting on it enough

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by marple27, Jan 27, 2012.

  1. Dear Tom,

    I am an Infant teacher with a child in my class who is undergoing assessment for Autism. He is becoming more and more violent in the last month, with regular, at least weekly physical attacks on other children and sometimes staff. He has taken to slapping people across the face if he comes across something he does not like. In the past month, he has physically attacked me on three separate occasions during class teaching. He does have an odd perspective on the world sometimes and the slapping and hitting in his eyes is always justifed as he is 'in the right'. He always has a reason- ie .'I didn't want to stop making my model and you made me stop'. (It was tidying up time!!)

    My Head is reluctant to give him sanctions due to his 'lack of understanding'. She just gives him a telling off and says not to do it again and that he will miss some Golden time, which a chance to earn most of it back for good behaviour. When he does get sent to her office, she lets him have Thinking time about his behaviour...doing colouring! I plucked up the courage this week to tell her that I didn't think her sanctions were tough enough or immediate enough and she actually, to her credit, agreed with me and made him miss his whole playtime.

    Today this child hurt me again- he hit me on my arm and threw a sharp pencil hard at my face, which drew blood on my forehead, all because he didn't want to do any writing. He was sent home this afternoon but was not excluded, so will be returning to school tomorrow as normal.

    I am expected to continue to teach him. My Head has now put in place provision for a TA to be at his side all the time but my TA is also not happy with being utilised in this capacity. I am right in thinking that this child despite having a possible 'condition' still should have been excluded? My Head's argument is that she can't see what effect it might have as he won't understand why he is at home other than to have a nice day off .

    Can I potentially refuse to teach him in his current state of agitation? Also can my TA refuse to be one to one with such an unpredictable child? I am actually feeling very anxious about going into the classroom with him in case a situation arises again.

    I really like my Headteacher- she is a lovely lady, who has great ideas for the school but I am extremely concerned about the children in my class' welfare and mine and my TA's safety. I have a very good professional working relationship with my Head, which I obviously don't want to upset. How can I put my concerns to her without offending her? Should I get my union involve at this stage or should I continue to talk to her at the risk of another incident occurring in the meantime?

    Any comments or advice from anyone would be greatly appreciated- I'm at my wit's end.
  2. Tom_Bennett

    Tom_Bennett Occasional commenter

    Excellent advice from Big Kid, above. I would simply add that teachers have NO right to refuse to teach BUT the school does have a duty of care. If you are routinely assaulted- and that's what it is, assault- and the school knows about it, then the school is failing to provide a safe working environment.
    I might add, they're also being totally invertebrate; it's easy for them to brush this under the carpet, as they don't have to suffer the blows. You do. You're going to have to step up your campaign and protect yourself- and your TA, and the other kids- from this child. It might not be his fault; he may genuinely be beyond responsibility (although I suspect in all but the most autistic kids this isn't the case...there is usually room for some responsibility on some level), but it isn't your fault either, and its the school's' responsibility not to expose you to danger.
    Tell the Head that if the pupil isn't given special provision external to the classroom, you'll consult your union, as you are in fear of your safety. Repeat that the child needs some kind of sanction system. If his needs are too great to be met in mainstream school, and if he isn't subject to mainstream behaviour modifications like sanctions, then he shouldn't be there. The needs of the many must outweigh the needs of the few. You can't be expected to deal with this- you're not a one-on-one tutor in a special school. You have a whole class to help.
    Your school is neglecting their duty appallingly.
    Good luck to you.

    Read more from Tom on his blog, or on his Twitter here.
  3. You are in a very difficult and stressful position and it sounds to me like what you and the child urgently need is support and autism training. Here's is a link to a document you may find useful:
    Autism is a neurological disorder that affects communication, social understanding and behaviour. Challenging behaviour is a common feature with children with autism as they can have difficulty with impulse control. This behaviour is often a sign that there is something wrong and the child has become highly distressed and anxious but they can't communicate their problem. Often the reason for the behaviour is not what you expect. E.g. sensory issues can cause real distress to a child with autism. Imagine how you would cope if you heard things 4 times louder than others, or if the lights caused you physical pain. The greater your understanding of the child and their disability the easier it will become to identify and prevent triggers, de-escalate situations and offer support. Remember that autism is a disability not an attitude problem and therefore cannot be treated in the same way. Sanctions, without understanding the reason for the behaviour and offering support strategies to help the child modify the behaviour, aren't likely to work and may even escalate behaviour as they may increase anxiety and stress and their feeling of being misunderstood.
    Some simple strategies which may help - social stories, communication aids, a quiet place to recover from difficulties, visual timetable, consistency, routine, good home/school communication. Find out if these behaviours exist at home and talk to the parents - they may have a good idea about what works and what doesn't - and what situations are likely to cause a meltdown.
    Obviously this isn't a situation that you can deal on your own. I think that you and the child do need a TA to offer support, but it is really important that the TA has autism training too.
    As someone who has often been at the blunt end of an autistic meltdown the most effective strategies I have found are to develop a trusting relationship with the child, stay emotionally neutral and increase my understanding of autism.
    If we want inclusion to work, and it needs to work, otherwise these children fall through the massive gap between mainstream and special school, then we need to develop our skills and knowledge around disability and fight for the support and resources needed to make it work.
    Good luck!

  4. LindaPaechter
    We don't even know if he is autistic.
    Also when you say he has difficulty giving reasons for what he does, and these reasons could be things like lights - the OP tells us that he doesn't have difficulty saying why he does things, and his reasons aren't to do with the lights. His reason in this case was he didn't like tidying when it was tidying-up time. Which does not indicate that the OP's use of "consistency, routine" will turn him round.
    Also I myself can't for the life of me see how we can advise the OP to "develop a trusting relationship with the child". To be honest it makes me wonder if you've read the post!
    If the only way for inclusion to work is for kids and staff to be regularly assaulted, then I don't want inclusion to work.
    My starting point would be: "if we want these assaults to stop, and they need to stop, otherwise people are getting hurt ...," and see where that leads. Which here, I think, means going with Tom's advice.
  5. "I didn't get the impression that Linda Paechter was trying to argue that slapping and pencil throwing was OK ..." Obviously I've never said that she has explicitly asserted that it's OK, she's not a lunatic. I've re-read my post, and hers, and I think the point I was making is clear enough.
    "I don't think LindaPaechter said that the child shouldn't be removed for the classroom" - she didn't say he should be, in two long posts. A bit forgetful of her, if she does believe it!
    "... given that there is a TA available. The Head Teacher was right to do this too." The TA in question takes a different view, and feels unsafe. I'm sorry, but the HT was <u>not</u> right to use a TA, who felt like that, in this way, without taking steps to address those concerns. (Re-reading the OP's two posts might make this point clearer.)
    "I did a quick search of the link for information about autistic kids getting distressed by transitions. The section you are looking for is section 2.9 which is on page 124 of the PDF version or here: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2009/07/06111319/26 Hope this is useful." - Touch&eacute;. My apologies.
    FAO Marple27 "Once again, I cannot express my gratitude enough to you all" - that's going it a bit! Noone's saved your life! You need a good night's sleep!
  6. marple27
    Thanks for updating us on how it is going. Sounds like you are starting to get the support you need and working really hard to help and include this wee boy. I'm glad you found this debate helpful. Good luck and take care of yourself, Linda

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