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Masking, Behaviour, and Learning Needs.

This is a record of the #SENexchange discussion from 2nd February 2022. We based the chat on the article: The tip of the iceberg: SEND, masking and multiple needs written by regular discussion contributor Sara Alston. I have edited some responses for clarity.

A Discussion on Masking and Learning Needs at School and Home.

How can schools engage with parents in the identification of a child’s SEN when the child presents differently at home and at school?

Behaviour masking and learning needs SEND special education discussion. How can schools engage with parents in the identification of a child’s SEN when the child presents differently at home and at school?

Nicki Sinclair @fieldofdaisies1

Listen to the parents and be open to understanding that children will let it all out in their safe space (home). Children quickly learn to mask behaviour that is seen to be unacceptable at school and internalise the stress and anxiety.

Karen Smith @scronti

To ensure that all needs are identified it’s our job to listen to every person involved in the child’s life. This informs Person Centred Planning and is central to the building of a support package that will facilitate growth for the child and upskilling of all those involved.

Sarah Wike @SarahWike2

Ask parents to describe what they living through, ask how differs during weekend/school holidays, ask if some days worse than others & analyse if this links to particular activities in school. Don’t make them feel like rubbish parents, respect their views.

StarlightMcKenzie  @StarlightMcKenz

Be clear about the purpose of identification to yourself.

TinaC @TinaCoope

Accept that perspectives about a child (at home and school) can differ. Respect the parents/caregivers. They have the most insight into their own children. Children don’t operate in a vacuum, see the whole picture, make active changes and review.

Dr Chris Moore @DrChrisMooreEP

Believe parents. Listen to what they are saying and empathise, rather than dismissing what they say by talking about the lack of apparent concern in school. There could be various demands and stressors in school which are impacting on a child’s wellbeing.

Lives in the Balance @LITB_

This is a problem we hear parents mention all the time in our Facebook parenting group. Our kids hold it together all day long, then come home and just can’t do it any more.

Faith Newton @FaithSchoolOT

Listen to parents. Acknowledge that lots of children at school mask. Don’t presume that difficulties are due to ‘poor parenting’.

Mark Williams @markwilliamsa

Be open, honest and commit to co-working/ production: nothing worse than coming out with that old chestnut when a parent raises concerns, viz. ‘well we don’t see that at school’. It closes things down, but it’s still regularly trotted out!

SEA Inclusion & Safeguarding @seainclusion

Just because we don’t see, it doesn’t mean that it is not evident in a different setting or context

Does a focus on behaviour difficulties mean that we miss learning, language and communication difficulties?

Sally Bourliakas @SallyBourliakas

These are really good charts to give parents to use highlighter on and mark-up the characteristics they see.

annotated ASD attributes
Dyslexia
Does a focus on behaviour difficulties mean that we miss learning, language and communication difficulties?

Dr Chris Moore @DrChrisMooreEP

A deficit-based focus is inherently negative. We need to be curious. Refusing to follow instructions or a speech and language need? Distracted/Disruptive or a sensory need? Attention-seeking or wanting to be remembered following experiences of trauma and loss?

Nicki Sinclair @fieldofdaisies1

My experience as a parent is yes. The child is “choosing to be naughty”. Yet when the right support is in place the behaviour reduces/disappears. An additional challenge is where support wasn’t in place at key data points. Then expectations for attainment are based on inaccurate data. If a child’s needs aren’t recognised & learning isn’t on track the child is underachieving significantly which isn’t recognised

StarlightMcKenzie  @StarlightMcKenz

Children who are confused can only take so long of continuously being excluded by language they can’t access. Eventually their avoid/escape behaviours kick in.

Mark Williams @markwilliamsa1

It doesn’t help. There’s such a widespread culture of focusing on behaviour, that otherwise ‘well behaved’ CYP may be exhibiting difficulties, but because they’re ticking along academically and not causing problems they may be overlooked.

Jo Graham @JoMGraham

It was often the case for my AP students. SEMH needs are often missed too.

Ms Barnsley @devschsenco

Look at communication and interaction, specific learning difficulties, SEMH needs, just look at the data on Youth offending or exclusions

Dig deeper and be curious. Only by identifying those underlying needs can we make progress.

How do we support school staff to consider the whole child, not just their most prominent issue?

How do we support school staff to consider the whole child, not just their most prominent issue?

SEA Inclusion & Safeguarding @seainclusion

If we refer to a child as the child with ASD or the refugee in Y8, this becomes a barrier to us seeing them as person with a range of strength as well as difficulties.

Dr Chris Moore @DrChrisMooreEP

  • What are the young person’s strengths, interests, motivators, preferences, hopes & worries?
  • Is there anything they want staff to know?
  • What would they like help with?
  • Are there exceptions to a problem and what factors make it easier?
  • What works well at home and elsewhere?

Jo Graham @JoMGraham

Talk to parents/people who love and care for the child. Start conversations with parents by asking what their child’s strengths are. Get them to find something to connect with the child over.

StarlightMcKenzie  @StarlightMcKenz

Support inclusion in activities and raise their profile so they are invited on play dates.

Mark Williams @markwilliamsa13dReplying to @SENexchange

Some of this starts with self-care. A very busy, possibly overworked, and potentially frazzled teacher may have less emotional energy and general headspace to notice subtleties of behaviour in one of many children in their care. The general culture of a school is also key: what’s needed across the board is a culture of acceptance of each and every child, with the requisite attention paid, however hard that may be to realise.

Sarah Wike @SarahWike2

Maybe ask them to undertake an individual SWOT type analysis of their interactions and understanding of that child, try to bring out or nurture the reflective practitioner in them.

Lisa Farley @LisaFar34706367

Give them TIME to work with individuals, so they can really get to know them. It is REALLY important for the TEACHER to spend time with individuals, not only TAs.

Callum    @Callum_SEND

Always focus on values. What would you want as a member of staff, for you or a loved one?

How we support children who do not fit the ‘stereotypical’ presentation of a particular diagnosis?

How we support children who do not fit the ‘stereotypical’ presentation of a particular diagnosis?

Nicki Sinclair @fieldofdaisies1

Listen to the child and or parents when they ask for help and advice. Or suggest that the child’s needs should be investigated. Be open to suggestions, advice, requests for reasonable adjustments from parents/child/other professionals involved. Everyone wants or should want the child to meet potential and removing barriers, however small, will help. Remember to look for equity of access.

StarlightMcKenzie  @StarlightMcKenz

Assume that none do from the outset, because none do perfectly.

Ms Barnsley @devschsenco

Training, awareness, constant CPD (in many different forms), stereotypes should be well out of the window by now. Again school culture and values.

Mark Williams @markwilliamsa1

CPD! Get on top of the latest thinking and research. Don’t rely on ‘received wisdom’. And a student may fit into a broad diagnostic category, but they are unique, with their own individual needs, and should be prized as such. Applies to every child, actually.

MK is a City see! @bestfriend1972

The Children and Families act 2014. Part 3, sections 20 and 21

The Children and Families act 2014. Part 3, sections 20 and 21

How and why might a child mask (or attempt to mask) their needs at school?

How and why might a child mask (or attempt to mask) their needs at school?

StarlightMcKenzie  @StarlightMcKenz

A child use answers and behaviours that are reinforced I.e. ‘If I say I’m fine no-one will make language demands of me about what is wrong, and if I say I understand, the TA won’t come over and make me look not clever to the class!’

Nicki Sinclair @fieldofdaisies1

Being quiet/distracting/disruptive, avoidance tactics because they are embarrassed or feel “stupid” asking for help, as help hasn’t been forthcoming in an appropriate manner in the past.

Ms Barnsley @devschsenco

Assimilating, imitating, following, copying, giving the answer they feel are wanted, flying under the radar, distracting from underlying need through other means.

Lisa Farley @LisaFar34706367

They may simply feel that nobody truly understands them and be emotionally withdrawn. This will also impact on their ability to engage fully with the learning.

SEA Inclusion & Safeguarding @seainclusion

Looking busy, engaging, smiling while not understanding or accessing learning. The language of zero tolerance adds to this pressure and expectation. Read our blog on Differentiation in Discipline for more on this. The child is expected to fit the intervention because they have a diagnosis, rather than considering the needs of the child which might be different to the stereotype.

Mark Williams @markwilliamsa1

Doing anything and everything to conform, fit in, go unnoticed, etc. Don’t all kids mask to a degree? So much pressure to conform in society. Such a cloying ‘fit in or else’ culture in schools coming from the top.

Dr Chris Moore @DrChrisMooreEP

There may be a fear of rejection, bullying or breaking rules. Imagine if we spent time really learning about each other and welcoming differences? Accepting that everyone has different ways of processing, conversing, playing, learning & regulating sensory input

StarlightMcKenzie  @StarlightMcKenz

Because they were trained in Zones of Regulation but not asked if they want to use it or find it helpful!?

Nicole White @NicoleW_sped

To fit in and be accepted among their peers, not wanting to look different, to fly under the radar (no attention and good attention) from the teacher, lack of confidence and they could be juggling too many things in their life outside of school.

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