I started my career in education as a teaching assistant in what was until recently referred to as an EBSD (Emotional, Behavioural, Social Difficulties) provision. During my time there I worked with children on the Autism Spectrum, children diagnosed with ADHD, ADD, hearing impairment and growth disorders. Each child required a different approach to helping them reach their full potential, and as you can imagine no one lesson was the same. What these children had in common was their inability to cope with life in a mainstream school, and what the wonderful team in my particular provision were able to offer was a consistent, respectful approach to teaching them.

The ‘behaviour’ part of EBSD never sat well with me, or the other members of staff. We were in agreement that behaviour is a symptom not a problem, not a catch-all diagnosis that defined those children as being unable to achieve a certain National Curriculum level, or function in particular social situations. We at ‘Wraparound Partnership’ therefore welcome the news that the terminology has been revised and the ‘behaviour’ element has been removed. We now refer to children with SEMH (Social, Emotional and Mental Health) difficulties. We believe that removing the label empowers the child or young person and gives them ownership of their behaviour.

However, regardless of individual diagnosis, it can still be a challenge to include these pupils in the classroom. Any good teacher will know that creating a culture of positive reinforcement builds a pupil’s self-esteem and makes for a happier classroom, but here are a few practical suggestions to make your job that little bit easier.

– Start the day on a positive note. Acknowledge when a pupil comes into class on time and fully prepared to start the lesson. If the pupil is late or moody, now is not the time for a confrontation. Allow the pupil to settle themselves and approach them informally once the class is on task.

– If a pupil is staying on task for the main part of the lesson, praise this. Do not focus on low level disruptive behaviour, as challenging this may lead to unnecessary arguments in which the whole class can involve themselves, resulting in chaos. It is important to ‘catch them being good,’ this might be holding the door open for you or a fellow pupil, sharing their stationery without being asked, or simply arriving with a pen would be a good start.

– Have high expectations. Do not be afraid to challenge pupils with SEMH if you know they can do better. Try to foster a ‘growth-mindset’, but do it sensitively – remind pupils’ of other instances then they have worked well, this will give them a confidence boost.

– Foster good relationships with parents and carers. Make a point of calling them to let them know when their child has had a good day, produced a particularly good piece of work, or showed kindness to fellow pupils. This will help to alleviate any fear they have about getting a phone call from school. It also means that when you need their help in including their child they are more likely to show their support.

– Have a sense of humour! Children and young people with SEMH have a lot of serious issues to deal with in their day to day lives, you and fellow members of staff can ensure that they enjoy coming to school (and keep turning up) by creating a fun, safe and secure environment where their differences are celebrated. Sometimes a situation can be diffused with a good natured joke- even if it’s at your expense!