Improving Mental Health and the Ability to Learn

Report
Improving Mental Health
and the Ability to Learn
Introducing an observational
checklist designed to explore
and meet the social and
emotional needs of children
in educational settings.’
Kim S Golding
Overview
 Attachment
Theory: A Recap
 Helping the Child with Attachment
Difficulties in School
 Supporting the Child in School
 Recognising the Emotional Needs of
Children in School
 The Observational Checklist
“As adults we have a shared ethical
responsibility in ensuring that all children and
young people are experiencing safety, security
and stability – whatever our role or context.
Realising a pupil’s starting point and then
intervening relationally and developmentally
facilitates growth, enabling the pupil to engage
with his or her thinking brain.”
(Louise Bomber, 2012)
Attachment Theory:
A quick recap
Sophie is a quiet but confident sixyear old who enjoys playing with her friends.
She likes mum to be around, but is able to
amuse herself. She likes drawing and playing
with her dolls. She was a bit alarmed when a
wasp flew into the room however, and ran to
mum for help. Mum made sure the wasp was
gone.
Sophie feeling safe readily returned
to her playing.
When mum brings Sophie to school she is
keen to meet up with her friends. Mum
leaves her in the playground and she
walks in to school with Louise, her best
friend. Sophie appears happy at school.
She is happy to share and works well in a
group. She relates well to the staff. She
happily follows the routines that are in
place and is achieving academically. If she
is frustrated she will appear cross but
readily lets a member of staff help her.
Generally Sophie is a co-operative, easy
going child in school.
When Sophie reaches 10 years she is
increasingly independent of the need for
her mum to be available in the playground
before school, she continues to work
independently and as an active participant
within group work, She is usually very
responsive to teacher instruction
Secure Attachment
STRESS
Exploratory
System
Attachment
System
NOVELTY
Child:
•Secure Base
•Proximity seeking
•Separation protest
Self:
Other:
Internal Working Model
Lovable, effective in relationships
Safe, helpful, available
Parent:
Sensitive
•Accepting
•Co-operative
•Accessible
Insecure Attachment
STRESS
Exploratory
System
Attachment
System
NOVELTY
Child:
Signals attachment needs
in distorted way, expressing
and hiding different needs.
.
Self:
Other:
Internal Working Model
Unlovable, ineffective in relationships
Unavailable, Unresponsive, Unloving
Parent:
Insensitive
• Rejecting
• Interfering
• Ignoring
Disorganized-Controlling
Attachments
Exploratory
System
STRESS
NOVELTY
Attachment
System
Child:
Seeks to control the relationship
to feel safe:
•Compliance, and caregiving
•Self-reliance
•Coercion and aggression
Can’t focus on exploration or
comfort seeking
Self:
Other:
Internal Working Model
Fearful, angry, powerful/scared
Frightening, dangerous, alarming
Frightening or
frightened
parenting:
Potential for safety
is also source of
threat
How does this impact on
behaviour in school?
Kelly is a needy six-year-old who has
not yet learnt to play alone.
She follows her parents around the
house, rarely settling to anything.
If a visitor arrives Kelly tries to insert herself
between her parents and the visitor.
Sometimes mum, exasperated by this
behaviour, will insist that Kelly play by
herself for a time. When Kelly sees the
wasp enter the room she screams and
shouts. When mum arrives Kelly clings to
her. She will not settle even when mum
shows her that the wasp has now gone.
Kelly is not confident when
brought to school. She tends
to cling to her parents and
does not want to be left. Once they have
gone Kelly ‘attaches’ herself to a member of
staff. She is demanding and ‘attentionneeding’. She talks constantly, often asking
questions repetitively but not paying any
attention to the answers. She likes to stay
close to the staff member, not wanting her to
go out of sight. She is possessive and
jealous when other children want to talk to
this member of staff.
Kelly will not work independently, always
seeking assistance even when she does
not need it. If working in a group Kelly
quickly falls out with the other children, as
she tries to stay centre of attention. If she
falls or bumps herself Kelly is inconsolable,
clinging to the staff member who comes to
help her.
By the time that Kelly has reached 10
years, she has developed skills in drawing
funny pictures and making jokes and uses
this to make her peers laugh and get adult
attention, whatever the cost. At breaktimes
she finds excuses to stay in the school and
'help' staff rather than mix with her peers.
Ambivalent Attachment Pattern
Expressed Need:
Secure Base
Need for
comfort and
protection
I can’t trust in your
availability. I need you to
attend to me all the time.
Hidden Need:
The world
I will not show my need
to separate and explore.
I will pull you in and
push you away to keep
you noticing me
In the classroom I will:








Be attention needing.
Have difficulty taking responsibility for behaviour
or for learning.
Be the class clown.
Have difficulty concentrating and focusing on
work.
Be hyper-vigilant to what adults are doing.
Be hyper-aroused – loud, aggressive, talks a lot.
Have difficulty following rules, learning from
consequences.
Have poor understanding of cause and effect.
The Learning Triangle
(Geddes, 2006)
Pupil
Preoccupied
with relationship
with teacher
Unable to
focus on task
Teacher
Task
Unwilling to
attempt task
unsupported
Mark is an independent six-year old who
makes few demands of his father. Mark
will play alone, giving dad a bright smile
when he comes in. He is also keen to
help his dad, frequently checking he is
okay and helping him with little jobs.
When Mark sees a wasp come in to the
room he keeps a wary eye on it but
continues playing.
When dad brings Mark to school he enters confidently
on his own, barely looking back as dad leaves. He
follows the rules and routines making few demands on
staff. He approaches other children but tends to hang
back waiting to be invited to join in. He enjoys running
around at the fringes of their games in the outdoor
area. Sometimes he falls over, but generally just picks
himself up and continues with the game. Mark prefers
to work on his own. He lacks confidence but does not
like to be helped. If working in a group he is quiet,
tending to follow the lead of the other children. Staff
rarely see Mark upset but occasionally when he is
very frustrated with something he will ‘explode’ with
anger. He resists staff attempts to help him and is
quickly back to normal.
When Mark reaches 10 years, her remains
seemingly independent within the
classroom, his work output is usually the
minimum required. Mark will just sit rather
than ask for help from school staff. He
continues to experience seemingly
'untriggered' outbursts from time to time.
Avoidant Attachment Pattern
Expressed Need:
I will act like I want to
explore even when I need
comfort
I will not show my need for
comfort and reassurance
Secure Base
Exploration
Hidden Need:
I will do it by myself, I
fear my need of you. I will
push you away
The world
In the classroom I will:
 Be
withdrawn/quiet.
 Be self-reliant – reluctant to ask for help.
 Have inexplicable tantrums or outbursts –
appear from nowhere, quickly over.
 Lack emotional engagement with other
children and what is going on in the
classroom.
 Appear isolated, or my friendships will
lack depth.
The Learning Triangle
(adapted from Geddes, 2006)
Pupil
Avoids
relationship
to teacher
Teacher
Focus remains on
task
Task
Denial of need for support
and help from teacher
Daniel is an angry, hyperactive six-year-old
who is exhausting to his mother. He is on
the go all the time, playing loud active
games. He frequently puts himself in
danger and needs constant supervision.
He is bossy, telling his mother what she
must do. When she asks him to do
something he ignores her. When Daniel
sees the wasp enter the room he runs
around chasing it. When mum tries
to remove the wasp Daniel gets
angry telling her to leave it alone.
Daniel arrives at school and everyone knows it. He
comes in loudly and tries to tell the other children what
to do. When staff approach he becomes angry
towards them. Difficult to contain indoors Daniel
prefers to be outside, running around and chasing the
other children. He does not like to come back indoors
and it is difficult to help him adjust to being back in the
classroom. Daniel does not settle to his work, he is
too busy seeing what everyone else is doing. He can
explode with anger, and often has to be taken out of
the classroom. Occasionally he will spend time
drawing – He likes to draw soldiers in battle,
frequently with lost limbs and lots of blood, soon
however he is running around again or fighting with
one of the other children. When staff try to intervene
they can be physically attacked.
When he reaches 10 years, Daniel will
often run out of the classroom when he
feels challenged by work or relationships.
He has difficulty accepting teacher
authority and will respond with verbal and
occasionally physical aggression
Elaine is a quiet, withdrawn six year old
who spends a lot of time in her bedroom.
As her mother approaches, Elaine is
vigilant, keeping an eye on her. At times she
will approach her mother, as if to check that
she is alright. She is very compliant, doing
as she is told and urgently trying to help her
mother with household jobs. When Elaine
sees the wasp in the room she runs to mum
and then quickly away again. She is
clearly distressed, but appears
confused about whether to go to mum
for help or not.
Elaine arrives at school late.
She appears unconcerned when
mum goes but remains hyper-vigilant,
watching what is going on around her but
not able to settle to her work either with or
without staff. At other times Elaine
appears quiet and ‘switched off’’ as she
sits at a table paying little attention to what
is going on around her.
This behaviour pattern continues when
she reaches 10 years.
In the classroom I will:









Show a diminished range of emotions – rage/terror.
Often be scared but masked by anger/aggression or by
becoming very withdrawn.
Be disruptive or passively unco-operative.
Be unable to concentrate, hyper-vigilant to
surroundings.
Be controlling in all relationships, interactions feel highly
manipulative.
Have a diminished capacity for enjoyment.
Be dissociated or hyper-aroused much of the time.
Be socially isolated or attracted to deviant peer groups.
When older demonstrate compulsive behaviours eg self
harm, drugs.
The Learning Triangle
(Geddes, 2006)
Pupil
Can’t relate
to teacher.
May seek to
control
teacher
Extreme anxiety
Task
Teacher
Trauma and fear interferes
with relationship and
attention to task.
Fear masked by anger and
aggression
Disorganized/Controlling Pattern
Secure Base
Frightening
The world
Expressed Need
I will not need you.
Needing you is dangerous
I must be in control
Hidden Need
I can’t explore the world.
I can’t seek comfort
I am too busy checking I
am safe
Helping the Child with
Attachment Difficulties in
School
The School Environment as a
Source of Stress




Children have to tolerate long periods away from
their attachment figure.
Children have to share adult support with a group of
other children.
Children have to learn to manage peer relationships,
dealing with friendship and conflict.
Children cope with increasing demands for
independence and self-organization.
All of these tasks are more difficult for children with
attachment difficulties.
Challenges in School

Trusting and relinquishing control to adults.

Directing attention away from concern for safety so able to
explore and learn.

Recognising, naming and regulating emotions rather than
displaying through behaviour.

Being able to focus attention, to sit, to concentrate.

Risking getting things wrong.

Coping with feelings of shame and badness.

Feeling special, significant, effective, and confident.

Able to problem-solve, able to resolve conflict.

Managing transitions.
The Shield Against Shame
Lie
I didn’t do
it
Blame
Its his
fault
Mimimize
It wasn’t so
bad
Rage
You always blame me.
I’m rubbish
The Painting Lesson
‘What’s THAT, dear?’
asked the new teacher.
‘It’s Mummy,’ I replied.
‘But mums aren’t green and orange!
You really haven’t TRIED.
You don’t just paint in SPLODGES
-You’re old enough to know
You need to THINK before you work ….
Now – have another go.’
She helped me draw two arms and legs,
A face with sickly smile,
A rounded body, dark brown hair,
A hat – and, in a while,
She stood back (with her face bright pink):
‘That’s SO much better – don’t you think?’
But she turned white
At ten to three
When an orange-green blob
Collected me.
‘Hi, Mum!’
The Painting Lesson by Trevor Harvey
In Read Me. A Poem a Day, Macmillan Children’s Books,
1998
Assumptions Underlying the School
Environment





Children will be able to regulate stress, with support.
Children have the capacity for emotional literacy.
Children have the capacity to manage shame inducing
experiences.
Children have the capacity to manage relationships.
Children’s emotional, cognitive and chronological
development are broadly similar.
These assumptions are often not true of children with
Attachment Difficulties
Behavioural Management
Programmes

Children need approaches that are empathy and
relationship based.

Boundaries, limits and consequences occur in the context
of highly warm, responsive, attuned and attentive
relationships

Recognition and support for the feelings underlying the
behaviours, including shame, anxiety and fear which are
masked by anger and aggression or withdrawal and
dissociation.

Need to recognise emotional immaturity.
Behavioural Management Programmes
Behavioural programmes will fail if:
 Children can’t regulate impulses – to think before acting.
 Children have poor causal thinking – don’t understand
cause and effect.
 Children can’t generalize learning from behaviour that has
led to a reward.
 Children don’t find relationships, and pleasing the teacher
rewarding.
 Children quickly experience shame and put up a shield.
 Feeling in control and avoiding emotional connection are
more important than praise and rewards
 Children are maintaining negative self identity – ‘I will
show you how bad I am.’
Supporting the Child in
School
Relationship, Relationship, Relationship
A School for Building Trust and
Security
SAFETY
‣
‣
‣
‣
‣
‣
‣
‣
‣
‣
Recognise fear and anxiety underlying behaviour.
Communicate safety explicitly, provide place of safety in
school.
Meet and greet, support around all transitions.
Clear structure, boundaries and routine, flexibly adapted to
changing emotional age.
Create school and class rituals.
Provide and sustain a relaxing environment.
Adults set the emotional tone.
Provide support from adults as arousal increases.
Encourage relaxation, calming strategies and sensory tools.
Recognise the level of support the child needs, especially
during times of transition during the day.
A School for Building Trust and
Security
BUILD A RELATIONSHIP
‣
‣
‣
‣
‣
‣
‣
Key adult, build sense of belonging.
Proactively engage with the child.
Pay close attention to direct and distorted
requests for help.
Support child to regulate emotion.
Support child to manage shame.
PACE not anger or criticism.
Pay attention to interactive repair and reattunement following difficult times.
Communicate with PACE
Playfulness – help child to experience
enjoyment in the relationship
Acceptance – Understand and accept the
child’s experience. Thoughts,
feelings, beliefs, desires are not
wrong.
Curiosity – Stay curious, wonder why.
Empathy – Communicate acceptance
A School for Building Trust and
Security
Connection before Correction
‣
‣
‣
‣
‣
Empathy first, co-regulate stress and arousal.
Match affect to connect with child.
Begin where child is, think young.
Avoid control battles.
Understand and communicate child’s experience
before expecting them to think about others.
Provide unconditional valuing of the child, whilst
supporting feelings and containing behaviour.
A School for Building Trust and
Security
SUPERVISION AND STRUCTURE
‣
‣
‣
‣
‣
‣
‣
Be clear, and appropriate for child (relate to
emotional age).
Help child to allow adult to be in charge.
Provide appropriate time when child can feel in
control.
Celebrate child taking responsibility for behaviour.
Limit and simplify choices and consequences.
Help child to understand cause and effect.
Celebrate good choices and/or learning from poor
choices
Support for the Adults
 Look
after yourself.
 Those working with the child will need
good support.
 Opportunities for reflection and planning.
 Good Supervision.
 Opportunities for training.
 Be aware of possibility of secondary
trauma.
Therefore:




Secure attachment gives the child the opportunity to
feel safe, to trust, to relate, to be dependent and to be
independent.
The child with attachment difficulties has not had this
experience.
These children bring their fear, their lack of trust, their
difficulties with relationships, their unfulfilled
dependency needs and their struggles with
independence into school.
We need to provide school environments within which
we can help the child to develop relationships and to
feel safe and secure enough to learn.
“Any given day in school holds countless
possibilities for learning. Supportive
opportunities provide the vulnerable pupils ...
With an alternative lens through which they
can interpret themselves, others and their
home/school contexts. For these
opportunities to be maximised, we need to
facilitate real relationships between both
adults and pupils. We need to listen well and
engage in reflective practice.”
(Louise Bombér, 2011)
Recognising the
Emotional Needs of
Children in School
Amanda

Amanda strides out confidently, a little ahead of her
mother. She looks eager to arrive. As they approach the
playground she runs up to the gate. She gives a little look
back to her mother, who gives a slight nod, and then runs
in. By the time mum catches up with her she is already
getting into line, chatting to the girl ahead of her. Her
school bag has been dropped beside her. Mum picks it up
and gently hands it back to Amanda. She reminds her to
place it on her peg as soon as the teacher lets them in.
Mum steps back and watches the teacher come out and
organize the children. Amanda looks over to her mum and
gives her a smile. Mum gives a quick wave and then
watches as she walks into the classroom, bag in hand.
John

John appears less confident. He walks with his father
who chats to him about the day ahead and what he is
going to do. They walk across the playground together
and Dad guides him into his line. He does not want to
take his place until he is sure that Dad is going to stand
and watch him go in to school. Dad shows him where he
is going to stand; and, settled now, John gives Dad a
hug. He watches Dad as he moves to the side of the
playground. The teacher comes out to organize the
children. John looks over to Dad anxiously, making sure
that he is still there. Dad gives a wave and watches as
he walks into the classroom still looking over at him.
Nico

Niko holds on to his mother’s hand, almost holding back
as they walk up the road. When they reach the
playground he falters, not wanting to go in. Mum bends
down and encourages him on, giving him a light hug to
reassure him that she will support him. Slowly they move
across to the gate. Niko makes no attempt to go in or to
join the line. Mum accepts this and stays with him whilst
he gathers up his courage to move on. A teaching
assistant comes up to support Niko. She encourages
mum and Niko to follow her to the line where mum
leaves him with her as they have agreed. Niko cries as
she goes but allows himself to be comforted by the
teaching assistant who keeps him close to her.
Emotionally Resilient Children
 Amanda,
John and Nico represent the
range of individual differences that
children can display emotionally and
socially.
 The sensitive teacher adapts her approach
tailored to the children’s individual needs.
 The children grow in confidence and
security. They remain different from each
other but each child is able to benefit from
the experience of school.
Children with Emotional
Difficulties
 These
children require a more specialised
help within school.
 Recognising these children can be difficult
because children show a range of
individual differences.
Amanda and Karen
Amanda is sociable, and confident. How can we
distinguish her from Karen who also comes in confidently
in the morning? Karen however is a little overly
boisterous. Other children warm to Amanda but appear
more wary of Karen, who can be controlling and
domineering. When it is time for assembly, Amanda and
Karen are keen to go in. Amanda walks into the hall,
seeking out her friends to sit with, whilst being aware of
where her teacher is. Karen rushes into the hall, pushing
herself amongst the children. She takes no notice of the
teacher as she demands that the child next to her move
up a little.
John and Jack
John is quieter, and more reserved. Jack also appears quiet
and reserved, but when the boys are observed together there is
a confidence in John that is not apparent in Jack. John will get
on with the task in front of him, but as the adult approaches he
is able to accept support and to go further in what he is doing
as a result. He tends to gravitate to one or two of the other
children, but is not overly concerned when paired up with a
different child. Jack on the other hand is less easy to support,
and progresses less well under the adults careful gaze. He
finds it harder to adjust to children outside of his small group.
When it is time for assembly, both boys will respond to the
teacher’s instruction and move on into the hall. Jack however
will appear more on edge during the assembly. He complies,
with the teachers encouragement but is less comfortable doing
so.
Nico and George
Niko is shy and quiet. He needs extra
support to cope with daily routines and to
cope with change and transition. George
also appears shy, but is much more clingy
and needy of support. Neither Niko nor
George will cope well with assembly. Niko
however will cope as long as he is
supported by a familiar adult whereas
George is more likely to go to pieces,
clinging to the adult until the assembly is
over.
 Amanda,
John and Nico will thrive with
sensitive, responsive adults, but Karen,
Jack and George are more emotionally
troubled and remain of concern to those
supporting them.
 Therefore need to distinguish between the
different but emotionally secure children
and those who are more emotionally
troubled, who will need different support.
Observational
Checklist
A tool to increase understanding and
support for children’s social and
emotional needs in school
Attachment Theory
 The
development of the checklist is
underpinned by Attachment Theory.
Amanda, John and Niko
 Experienced
security of attachment.
 Whilst they all approached school
differently they each could use their parent
to support them to make the transition to
school.
 They could transfer this ‘secure base’ to
the teacher or teaching assistant and
therefore be supported to manage the day
away from the parent.
Karen, Jack and George
 Do
not have security of attachment.
 Less able to draw security from parent to
make the transition to school.
 Struggle to use teacher/teaching assistant
as a secure base in school.
 Impacts on feelings of safety and security.
 Impacts on emotional development and
social development
 Impacts on learning.
When we do not feel secure we become
preoccupied with the need for safety, and
this makes it much harder to face
outwards to the world, to enjoy challenges,
and to learn and develop new skills.
Identifying the Emotionally
Troubled Child
 Behaviour:
understand the child and how
he copes with different situations.
 Progress: is the child making good social,
emotional and learning progress?
 Contextual experience: knowledge of the
child’s current and early experience at
home and school.
Identifying the Emotionally
Troubled Child
 The
observation checklist can guide staff
to observe behaviours and monitor
progress of children.
 This interpreted in the light of contextual
information can inform the support that the
child is given.
 In this way the emotionally troubled child
can be identified and appropriately
supported.
Who is this book for?
•
All Early Education settings, (appropriate from age 2
years to end of Foundation stage at 4 years).
•
Schools - Children aged 5 – 11 (sometimes beyond).
•
Anyone who wishes to reflect on a child’s emotional
needs using Attachment Theory to guide
interventions and help them to be measurable.
All behaviour is a
communication of
need.
Contents: The Checklist
The observation checklist
 Detailed guidance for completing and
analysing the observations made with the
checklist
 Worked examples of the observation
checklist: Chloe and Jacob
 Suggestions for developing an action plan
to meet the needs identified
Contents
Supplementary Information
Attachment Theory & Child development
 Helping the child with attachment difficulties
in school
 Supporting children with multiple difficulties
– when attachment difficulties co-exist with
other difficulties including learning
difficulties, ADHD, Autism, Sensory
integration difficulties.
 Glossary, further reading and useful
websites

The aims of the checklist:
To inform & sit
alongside other
assessment
tools
To support adults
to make
interventions
measurable
Highlight
Emotional
Needs of
child
Reflect &
Unpick
Behaviours
To
consider
further
strategies
The contents of the checklist
The key person considers a child’s behaviour
in the following 5 areas:
Key
Person
Strategies
Observations
& notes
• Behaviour
• Play & relationships with
peers
• Attachment behaviours
• Emotional state
• Attitude to attendance in
early years setting
1. Behaviour checklist
Almost
always
What is child’s
behaviour like?
Attention,
concentration and
activity levels?
Sometimes
As child of
same age or
stage of
devpt.
Sometimes
√
Resists
boundaries, noncompliant√
Almost always
Overly compliant,
accepts boundaries
with little fuss
Difficult
behaviour that is
overly
challenging
√
Unpredictable,
easily triggered
emotional
outbursts
√
Appears very selfcontained, too good
√
Concentration can
be intense, becomes
absorbed in tasks,
hard to interrupt
Loses
concentration
easily
√
I
mpulsive, often
acts without
thinking
Restless, highly
active
Passive but difficult
behaviour that is
expressive subtly
√
Overly controlled,
rarely impulsive
Less active than
expected.
Supporting Evidence and Comments
Helping the child with
attachment difficulties in school
 Raising
awareness of attachment needs.
 Building relationships.
 Supporting key person role.
 Reflect on emotional needs and ideas for
meeting these needs.
 Model relationship building activities.
 Plan with the network
A Case Study.
J – 9yrs old

Request for support –
“J is currently struggling with his numeracy in
school. When he struggles he puts up a barrier
and will not try to take part in the subject. His
Mom and teachers feel that he would benefit
from some support to build his confidence with
numeracy to help him begin to access the
subject and enjoy and achieve within lessons.
Teachers also feel that they would benefit
from advice as to how to best support him
with this in the daily numeracy lessons.”
Although his
behaviour is not
overly challenging
to staff it is clear
that he:
Frequently loses
concentration
Occasionally
resists boundaries
Sometimes
seems restless and
highly active.
Less interested in
relating to peers than
typical – support to
develop relationships?
Play behaviour is
immature – need more
adult support?
Can sometimes
become over excited
by a task and become
competitive and
needing support when
he does not “win”.
J seems to experience security
with parents but struggles more
away from them – he needs a
substitute attachment figure in
school to help him to cope with
school and being away from his
parents.
•He needs support and
attention from teachers to
feel settled and engage fully
in learning – this is why he
prefers to be close to an
adult and talks a lot.
J presents as a child who
hides feelings and
sometimes it might be
hard to know how he is
feeling - it may be
because he needs a little
help to recognise when he
is anxious and support to
express how he feels.
Sometimes in contrast he
might appear overly
worried or happy – but at
these times it was noted
that he struggled to talk
about his feelings and
found it tricky to become
calm again.
This supports the
thought that J was
experiencing
general anxiety
about school and on
occasions was not
coping well.
Taking the overall picture from the checklist it is clear
that J can often show signs of anxiety and will benefit
from extra support in school. This anxiety is particularly
apparent to teachers when it comes to taking part in
numeracy lessons but the checklist reveals a more
pervasive pattern of anxiety in school.
Actions planned;
School allocated a Key TA
for J
Attachment Training for
Teacher and Key TA.
Relationship Based Play
support for TA – building
her relationship with J.
Numeracy sessions
replanned – using rel based
play, 1:1 instruction from
TA, whole class working.
ISL Direct Work with J
teaching Protective
Behaviours Strategies to
help him to recognise
anxiety and build
strategies for managing it.
Impact of using the
Observational Checklist?





Staff became more aware of J’s anxiety in school and
how this was impacting upon his learning and enjoyment
of school – particularly concerning numeracy.
The tool helped to show staff why traditional support
methods that they had tried were not working for J at
that time.
Staff developed a greater understanding of J as a whole
child and could meet his emotional needs more fully.
J began to feel more settled and happy in school – his
esteem grew as he learned to take control of his feelings
using the strategies that he was learning.
J began to take part in numeracy with enjoyment and
success – declaring it “easy-peasy”.
Case Example Two
 S.
is 6-years-old.
 Removed to foster care 1-year-old
 She was adopted with her elder sister 11
months later.
 Birth parents had learning difficulties and a
volatile relationship.
 Early care was chaotic, inconsistent and
neglectful
 Sarah has always been delayed reaching
developmental milestones
Behaviour
Almost
always
Resists
boundaries, noncompliant
Sometimes
Loses
concentration
easily
Passive but difficult
behaviour that is
expressive subtly
√
Appears very selfcontained, too good
√
√
Concentration can
be intense, becomes
absorbed in tasks,
hard to interrupt
At play or work
with adult support
√
√
Almost
always
Overly compliant,
accepts boundaries
with little fuss
Frequent
Impulsive, often
acts without
thinking
Restless, highly
active
Sometimes
√
Difficult
behaviour that is
overly
challenging
Unpredictable,
easily triggered
emotional
outbursts
As child of
same age or
stage of
development
√
Overly controlled,
rarely impulsive
Less active than
expected.
Behaviour
Attention Needing –anxiety is raised when S. perceives
that attention does not appear to be available.
 S. strives to control her environment in order to feel safe.
Fear driven – that attention may not be available or may
go away.
 Doesn’t always understand what is required of her –
risky, challenging, scary.
 The intention of all behaviour, positive or negative, is to
get her needs met.
 Outbursts occur when Sarah struggles to regulate her
emotions and needs.
 Hypervigilant, High levels of anxiety

Behaviour with other children
Almost
always
Possessive about
playing or
interacting with
other children
Wants to join in
but struggles to
get along with
others
Overly controlling
and bossy with
other children
Can be quite
controlling or
bullying towards
other children
Sometimes
As child of
same age or
stage of
development
Sometimes
√
Never just lines up in a normal way
Parallel playing –
alongside others in a
group
√
√
Almost
always
√
√
Prefers to play alone
Other children don't like her (they
are fearful of her reactions – not
sure how she will react) – S. sets
herself up for the other children
to tell tales about her.
√
Not interested in
playing or
interacting with
other children
Tends to remain
alone, appears
isolated
When does
interact with
another child
tends to be easily
led
Is often bullied,
controlled or
picked on by
other children
Behaviour with Other Children
secure base to support exploration –
she doesn't feel safe in school
 Socially immature and confused by
unwritten rules
 Difficulty in taking turns and sharing
 Low self-esteem
 Feeling out of control will lead to feelings
of wanting to feel powerful/ in control
 No
Play Behaviour
Reluctant to
engage in new
play or tasks
Finds it difficult
to settle to task
√
Tends to get overinvolved in task
to exclusion of
others
√
Unable to play
imaginatively
Overly
competitive,
always wants to
be first
Overly
enthusiastic about
new play or task
Overly absorbed
in imaginary
world
When on her terms
she can be creative
√
When lining up
Can be very
shy
Overly timid,
reluctant to join in
Play Behaviour
– may be focused on
keeping an adult engaged or knowing
what adult is doing – attending to play may
be difficult
 Poor right brain/left brain development
 In control of own world
 Hypervigilant
Attachment Behaviours
Separation and Reunion
Almost
always
Very clingy,
does not want to
leave caregiver
Angry or overly
distressed when
caregiver
returns
Cries, hard to
soothe. Appears
not comforted.
Sometimes
As child of
same age or
stage of
development
Sometimes
Not observed as Sarah is transported
to and from school n taxi.
Reports from the taxi service say
that Sarah is very disruptive in the
taxi and her behaviour is often
unsafe. The escort has to sit between
her and the other children for all
their safety
Almost
always
Doesn’t look
back, takes little
notice of
caregiver
Actively avoids
and ignores
caregiver
Never cries or
shows emotion
Attachment Behaviours
with familiar adults
Unusually
dependent
√
Depends on her mood
Stays close to
adult, tries to
gain attention,
talks a lot
Very clingy,
wants to be with
adult all the
time
√
√
Overly
demanding and
attentionneeding
Likes to be in
control/in
charge
√
√
Can relating (working/playing) calmly,
then suddenly comes out with
aggressive behaviour. Can be difficult
to relate to.
Unusually
independent
Difficult to relate
to, avoids eyecontact
√
Hard to get close
to, or false
quality to
affection given
√
Overly self
reliant,
undemanding,
detached
All the time – everything has to be on her
terms
Unusually
passive; tries too
hard to please
Attachment Behaviours
with unfamiliar adults
Overly
affectionate,
gets too
physically close
Overly
demanding and
attentionneeding
Likes to be in
control/in
charge
Asks personal
questions even
though does not
mean to be rude
√
√
√
√
Overly fearful,
shy, wary
Resists friendly
overtures
Unusually
passive; tries too
hard to please
Shows little
interest in visitor
Attachment Behaviours
Minor Hurts
Appears overly
distressed
√
Wants lots of
comfort
Needs lots of
soothing and
resists being
comforted
Acts as if
nothing has
happened
But will cry a lot
√
Not easy to sooth
√
Appears not to
need comfort
Appears not to
need soothing
Attachment Behaviours

S. appears to find it extremely distressing when
leaving her parents. Extreme separation anxiety
which leads to her dysregulating on a regular basis.
 Sarah's 'default' behaviour appears to be along the
Avoidant Attachment style – this is where she finds
the intimacy of relationships and eye contact
threatening. However, she also very anxious about
keeping the adults around her close. Therefore,
depending on her emotional state during the day
she will push adults away or try to draw them close
–often inappropriately or in a confused way. –
disorganized presentation.
Attachment Behaviours
 S.
has learned to do things for herself and
has learned self-reliance. She may have
learned to self-sooth and may appear
independent from adults.
 S. is fundamentally untrusting of adults
 May focus on something else to manage
the anxiety of caregiver leaving them.
 In order to feel safe S. will strive to control
her environment.
Attachment Behaviours
 S.
may find safer not to respond or engage
with others and prefer to remain invisible.
 She may not necessarily seem distressed,
even though she is highly anxious.
 S. may find the intimacy of eye contact
threatening
 Lacks social competence
Attachment Behaviours
 S.
may be suffering extreme emotional
distress when hurt, and needs to maximise
the opportunity to engage the adult.
 Although she appears not to need
comforting, she is unable to regulate her
own emotions – pushing the adult away
but still needing comfort. Very confusing
for the adult.
 May be disassociating when stressed.
Emotional State
Almost
always
Sometimes
As child of
same age or
stage of
development
Sometimes
Appears overly
anxious, worried
or distressed
Appears overly
cheerful or happy
Appears very
sensitive, easily
upset
Almost
always
√
√
Extremes for both
√
Walk on 'eggshells' as don't
know how she will react
√
No anxieties or
concerns even
when there is
cause
Appears sad,
withdrawn or flat
Appears
indifferent,
doesn’t show
feelings
Emotional State
Display Feelings
It is easy to tell
how the child is
feeling
Displays feelings
only through
angry, challenging
behaviour
Tends to hurt
others
Can only tell when she physically
reacts.
Facial expressions - disengages
Tends not to
show how he/she
is feeling in the
way he/she
behaves
√
√
Tends to hide
feelings away. It
is difficult to tell
how the child is
feeling.
Tends to hurt self
Peers and staff
Emotional State
 Confused
emotions - mood swings
 Easily shamed
 Energy used up on anxiety
 Low self-esteem
 Emotional outbursts – holding in emotions
that 'spill' over
 Dysregulates quickly
 S. may want to control her environment to
get predictability
Emotional State
 Empathy
hasn't yet developed.
 Sarah doesn't really understand social
inferences/rules - Misunderstands verbal
cues
 Feelings of worthlessness may provoke
rage. She may want to get feeling of being
powerful
 Vents anxiety
 Not able to verbalise feelings – may react
physically.
Attitude to Attendance
Almost
always
Overly reluctant
to attend
Does not cope
well with school
appears immature
Can become very
disruptive or
oppositional when
directed by adults
Sometimes
As child of
same age or
stage of
development
Sometimes
Almost
always
Overly
enthusiastic about
attending
Not known
√
Copes well with
school, but rather
too grown up
√
Passive but noncompliant when
directed by adults
Depends on mood
√
Action Plan
ACTION PLAN TO SUPPORT OBSERVATIONAL CHECKLIST
Name of Child
S.
Dates of
Observation
03/12/12
DOB
Code Of Practice
None
SA
Involved
Professionals
What works well
Speech & Lang Therapist
Ed Psych
Key Person Support
Additional adults within
setting
Boundaries and structure –
containment, predictability
Calm, quiet and nurturing
SA+
STATEMENT
Areas for development
Supporting
emotional
regulation
Concern:
Target
How will this be achieved
To help Sarah
feel safe and
secure in school
For Sarah to feel safe – Through the key person
enough in school to be role - support building a
able explore the
relationship with Sarah
learning environment – Allowing Sarah to
become dependent on
the support in order to
explore the learning
environment
– Consistent repetition
1=hear, 2=process,
3=action
– To establish a transition
from school to home
– To use ‘check-ins’
routine
Resources
The learning
environment
Who?
Where?
Key
person
School
staff
Transitional
objects
School
staff and
parents
Concern:
Target
To reduce
anxiety
based
behaviours in
school
For an adult to
co-regulate
Sarah's
emotions and
feeling of
containment
How will this be achieved
– Providing clear structure and
boundaries
– By the support intervening early
– Providing high non-confrontational
responses with empathy
– To 'wonder out loud'
– To provide concrete, mechanical
and rhythmic activities to help
calm.
– Supporting Sarah to regulate her
emotions
– ‘Time in’ or have TA sit with her
whilst calming down.
– Using visual cues/timetable during
transitions through the day
– Giving Sarah plenty of warning for
transitions
Resources
– Empathic
–
–
–
–
language
Relationship
based play
activities
Visual
cues/timetable
Calm area
Calming
activities
Who?
Where?
Key
person
support
School
staff
Outcome
 Emotional
difficulties recognised alongside
learning difficulties.
 Action plan implemented.
 S. responds well to a high level of
structure although continues to
demonstrate her need to control.
 She responds better to relationship
support than behavioural strategies.
 Anxiety reduces.
 Requires long-term support
Much of what these pupils need to learn
can’t be learnt alone through textbooks.
They need you and me. Relationships
matter. In school let’s take up our
responsibility in ensuring that these pupils
experience healthy secure attachment in
our care so that they can be all that they
can and want to be, making valuable
contributions towards our shared society
.
(Louise Bomber, 2012)

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