Supporting children’s classroom behaviours
To successfully support children’s behaviour, it is important to continually ask what is this behaviour communicating? What is the child trying to tell you through the behaviour you’re seeing? The minute you change your thinking from, ‘Why are they doing that behaviour?’ to, ‘What is that behaviour communicating?’ you will be taking the first step towards understanding the child’s underlying needs.
Let’s take a closer look at the reasons a child might be using behaviour to communicate.
An inability to communicate
Ican, a children’s communication charity, reports that 10% of children have some form of communication difficulty. This can range from being non-verbal to having milder difficulties in either understanding speech or communicating their thoughts. Some children may appear to be very verbal and be able to explain their needs, however they may have difficulty understanding the instructions or information you were trying to tell them. Just because a child has a lot of words doesn’t mean that they’re understanding what you’re saying or that they are able to socially communicate effectively.
If you have any concerns about the child’s ability to either express their needs or understand the information you are telling them, a speech therapy assessment would be the best way to get more information about the child’s ability. There are many strategies that can be put in place to help children with communication difficulties to express their needs.
School aged children who have speech delays will frequently demonstrate behaviours that would be expected from younger children. For example, they may push their peers to get onto a piece of equipment or grab a toy of another child in the same way a toddler might. This is because they are unable to express what they want. These children need to be given communication strategies they can use to express their needs. They may also need to be taught different ways of interacting which are safe and appropriate.
An inability to do the activity
Sometimes children’s classroom behaviours will change when they’re not able to complete an activity. The child might be dyspraxic and be unable to figure out how to complete the task, so they use behaviour to communicate that they’re struggling to understand what to do. It may be that the task is just too hard for their ability, and they use behaviour again to show that they can’t do it. Sometimes these children just need to learn how to ask for help. These children will need work that is differentiated or the instructions to be presented in a different way so that they can access the learning. If you do this, it’s likely you will see a reduction in their behaviours.