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The Challenge in Challenging Behaviour

If someone cannot tell you how they feel they will try to show you how they feel.

Language is one way to convey emotion, but of course it is not the only way: sign language and symbol communication systems such as TomTag feelings tags are equally as effective. People will express their feelings through their behaviour when they either 1) do not have a communication strategy to hand, or 2) when they themselves cannot identify the feelings they are experiencing.

You will have heard the phrase challenging behaviour. And you will have come across the common misconception that it should be stamped out. The behaviour is communication, we do not want to stamp that out.

Consider what the challenge actually is:

  • The person exhibiting the behaviour is being challenged by a problem in their own life.
  • The challenge they are setting you is to work out what that problem is and to help them solve it.
  • Their behaviour is simply the communication tool they are using to alert you to the problem.

When faced with behaviours that challenge you, if all you do is try to prevent the behaviour you will not escape the challenge. Suppose the behaviour I am using to express my difficulty with the world as I find it is to hit my head against a wall, and you put a helmet on me to stop this from hurting me. Although my head is safe you have silenced my communication, so I will need to find a new way to express the difficulty, perhaps I will bite myself, or hurt you. I am not doing these things maliciously, I am just seeking to be understood.

Helping me to recognize and then express my emotions using communication strategies such as signs or symbols gives me a way to express my difficulties clearly to you without needing to resort to challenging behaviour. You need to ensure these communication methods are as effective as behaviour for me, I want to be sure that I get as much help when I point to the symbol for ‘sad’ as I used to get when I expressed ‘sad’ by hurting myself.

The word challenge is right. It is a challenge to work out what someone else is communicating to us, especially when we are trying to do that for someone who doesn’t communicate using traditional communication methods or for someone who experiences the world in a different way to us, due to sensory differences or neurodiversity.

On my course Exploring the Impact the Senses have on Behaviour, we do just that! When behaviours stem from sensory causes they require a different response from behaviours whose origins are elsewhere. Behaviour triggered by the senses can be low level niggly gripey grumpy type behaviour or it can be big explosive behaviours such as biting, kicking and lashing out.

When explosive sensory behaviours occur hormones flood the brain and a person loses access to their ordinary channels of communication; language, signs and symbols no longer work. On Exploring the Impact the Senses have on Behaviour we look at how we can communicate in a sensory way to support that person. We look at how practices such as externalizing emotional regulation and using symbol support (e.g. TomTag) to express emotion can help avoid crisis situations. We also do the sensory detective work to better understand the triggers for these behaviours and how we can avoid them.

Connect with Joanna to learn more about her remarkable work and brilliant, interactive, training courses.

TheSensoryProjects.co.uk

Facebook @TheSensoryProjects

Twitter @Jo3Grace

Linkedin Joanna Grace

  • cover image sticker pack feelings & emotions

    Feelings & emotions

  • cover image download feelings tag

    Feelings tag-o-meter

  • I can do it – manage my feelings

  • cover image minikits share how I feel

    I can do it – share how I feel

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SNAPPY – supporting our local special needs community

collecting snappy certificate thumbnail image

Snappy – Special needs activity and play provision for York – has been providing a lifeline to families of children and young people with disabilities for 30 years. Snappy runs Saturday and school holiday play schemes and activities for children and young people up to age 25 who can’t access these kind of opportunities elsewhere and gives parents and carers a much needed and well-earned break as well. 

We love the work that all the Snappy team do so when we heard that they were looking for more local businesses to support them by joining their 100 Club, we couldn’t resist snapping up the opportunity! 

Here’s Deborah collecting our Club 100 member’s certificate from Snappy himself. The team have so many exciting ideas and plans for the future that we know will make such a difference to the lives of the families they support and we’re proud to be joining them on their journey.proud supporters of snappy logo

 

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PLYT Maths games – a level playing field

Board games are an excellent family bonding activity with both educational and social benefits. They can encourage verbal communication and interaction as well as teaching important social skills such as sharing, waiting and turn-taking skills – not forgetting the elusive skill of being a good sport whether you win or lose.

For families with children across a range of ages or who have a child or children with learning differences, finding games to play that stimulate everyone’s interest (including the adults!) can be especially tricky.

Plyt – Play it & multiply

When their children were at primary school, Lisa and Ian McCartney were keen to help them improve their numeracy skills and looked for a game that they could play together to do this. They tried various things but found that games that were suitable for one child were too easy or difficult for the other and in all cases, they as adults had to ‘dumb down’ to play on the same level as the children.

That’s when they came up with the idea for Plyt – a competitive maths game where everyone is challenged at their own level but anyone can win regardless of age or ability.

Players choose a number of dice to roll (from 2 up to 5) and must correctly multiply the numbers showing on the face of each dice to move on to the next space on the board. Younger players can just add the numbers until they’re ready to start multiplying. With special Chance Card squares dotted around the board there’s always an element of surprise to make things more exciting too.

Autism Awareness

When Plyt asked us if we would be interested in sponsoring the daily Plyter competition for Autism Awareness Month we were only too pleased to work with them. The ability for everyone to be challenged at their own level makes the game ideal for children with autism and their families to play.

There are many children on the autistic spectrum who have a good ability with numbers so Plyt takes advantage of this strength and interest whilst encouraging participation in an activity with others and teaching social skills. Siblings, friends and parents can play alongside at their own level and everyone grows in confidence and ability.

Daily challenge

The daily #Plyter challenge runs on Twitter and Facebook at 19:30 each day and is a just-for-fun way to give your brain a daily exercise with an occasional prize thrown in for the monthly winner.

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Cotton Shed Theatre

Orkid Ideas are proud to be co-sponsors of a new marketing banner for COTTON SHED, East Lancashire’s only inclusive theatre group.

cotton shed bannerCotton Shed was formed in 2007 as a part of a ‘shedlink’ scheme run by Chicken Shed, the hugely successful London-based inclusive theatre company. Cotton Shed shares the values of its London counterpart, offering access to theatre regardless of age, ability or background. It is a professional theatre company that works using an inclusive creative process, embracing individuals with a myriad of disabilities and encouraging everyone to contribute. The result is entertaining and outstanding original theatre that celebrates diversity.

My autistic son attends the Cotton Shed Youth Theatre group. Under the direction of professional theatre artists he has built his confidence and talent at his own pace. He particularly enjoys the safe, nurturing environment and through the skill of the professionals has been involved in some fantastic and inspiring productions.

Cotton Shed currently runs groups for Beginners Theatre (ages 4-7), Children’s Theatre (ages 8-11), Youth Theatre (ages 12-16) and Company Theatre (ages 16+) at Haslingden Primary School near Rossendale.

Pop over to the Cotton Shed website www.cottonshed.co.uk to watch an inspiring documentary and find out more about their work or how you can get involved.

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Good practice is good practice (Sensory Stories with Joanna Grace)

Joanna Grace is a special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities consultant who writes educational resources and sensory stories for individuals with SEN. Recently Joanna successfully ran The Sensory Story Project, to create a set of self resourcing sensory stories that parents, as well as teachers, could afford to buy. Orkid Ideas are proud to have been one of the backers of The Sensory Story Project. We invited Joanna to talk about the overlap between provision for children with special needs and provision for mainstream children and we’re delighted to share her thoughts with you here.

Good practice for children with special needs is good practice for all children

Many of the teaching methods and resources used in mainstream schools currently were originally developed for children with special needs. Classrooms have visual time tables, teachers think about the different learning styles of their pupils: visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, and nursery schools sign with their tots.

It makes sense that anything which amplifies learning for a child with special needs will also amplify learning for mainstream children. Meeting the challenges to learning for children presented by special needs enriches provision for all, it’s one of the wonderful effects inclusion has for all children.

I write sensory stories for individuals with profound and multiple learning difficulties for whom they offer the opportunity to engage with a range of sensory stimuli, develop their confidence, communication and increase their opportunities for socialising as well as giving their carers insight into ways of personalising their care. They’re a great resource and so much fun, and they work well with children who do not have any special needs.

joanna grace chocolate
Joanna touching a vat of hot melted chocolate whilst eating melted chocolate – one of her favourite sensory experiences!

Cognitive development, for all of us, relies on sensory stimulation. If we use our senses when we learn more of our brain is involved in our learning, quite literally more of it; and if more is involved then we’ve more chance of remembering.

A sensory story combines a concise narrative (typically less than 10 sentences) with a sequence of sensory experiences. I have written stories about the birth of stars in stellar nurseries, about the history of Victorian feminism, about fantasy adventures and about every day activities. I’ve written stories for Worldstories, Booktrust, Kensington Palace, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and lots more lovely organisations.

You can pack a lot of information into a small number of words; and you can also unpack all that information from a small number of words. When I revised for my exams at school I would take notes, and then take notes on my notes, and notes on my notes etc. Eventually I’d end up with a few sentences from which I could generate everything I knew about a topic. If those sentences had been accompanied by sensory stimuli I’d have been even more likely to remember them, and the process of revision would have been more fun.

It is good for everyone to recognise that communication isn’t solely reliant on language. Children who don’t have special needs can still struggle with speaking in public, or organising their thoughts into language. Think of that adage: a picture speaks a thousand words. Through using sensory stimuli to tell a story children who aren’t quite as adept at verbal communication can speak thousands upon thousands of words, through smells, tastes, touches, sights and sounds.

I’ve had lovely conversations with young people in mainstream nursery, primary and secondary schools, and yes – even a few universities, who’ve enjoyed learning in a sensory way and have begun to consider who these stories might have been written for. They can be a great tool for disability awareness.

The best thing about sensory stories is that they are fun. We all enjoy learning more (or escaping into that special place created by stories) if it’s fun. You can find out more at http://jo.element42.org