Have you ever had a student who was too rough with his/her peers? I certainly have.
At the start of my education career, I worked with a young child, Peter, who kept hitting his classmates.
That was so frustrating. It happened again and again and again. No matter how hard I tried to reason with Peter, it didn’t change.
I kept explaining “don’t hit”, he had time out, I even had a meeting with his parents… Wasn’t that what I was supposed to do?
It was very early in my career before I even studied psychology and special education. I knew little, or nothing, about managing problem behaviours.
But what happened to me with Peter, it happens to teachers and parents all the time. And I see them, like me at the time, trying their best but not being able to fully resolve the problem.
Behaviour management is a complex subject, but here I want to tell you Rule No. 1 for promoting good behaviour:
Tell the child what he/she is supposed to do.
Yes, tell them. Clearly. Simply. Just tell them.
You see, Peter knew he was not to hit, he was not to pull hair, he was not to hurt his friends. But that is what he did, all the time.
I never told Peter what to do! Instead, I did this:
Peter, sit here (near me, so those curls he wanted to pull were out of reach).
Peter, hold this box (so he stood in line with his hands busy so that he couldn’t hit)
Peter, help me with this (so he was not bored waiting and tempted to push a friend to pass the time).
Peter, be gentle (and remind him to use gentle hands and maybe hug or give a hi-five -when those things were things we did with friends…)
I know what you are thinking, behaviour management is not as simple as that. You are right, and there is more to it.
And that is why I will be teaching a full master class on behaviour management for children with autism next week.
Rule No. 1 teaches children what they should be doing, but don’t assume they always know.
I often use the word/sign for GENTLE to teach children what to do instead of pushing, hitting or pinching others. I use the term “gentle hands” with the Lámh sign, so they learn that I want them to approach and touch their friends if they’re going to say hi or play together.
Let’s use this strategy together this week. You might want to share this email with the families you are working with, so they can try Rule No. 1 (to tell the child what to do) at home.
So, the sign of the week, for the week starting on Monday the 1st of February is GENTLE.
Subscribe to my newsletter and learn a new sign every week, read one of my articles or watch my video blogs where I answer questions I receive from primary school teachers, special needs assistants, and early years educators of children with autism.