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Thursday, 22 June 2017

Behaviour in Education

Behaviour. Such a loaded word, isn't it?

Is it good, or bad? Is it acceptable, or naughty? Extreme and challenging, or exemplary?

Today I will be at the Telegraph Festival of Education being held at Wellington College. I'm expecting to see crowds of well educated and experience educational professionals, all networking and hopefully learning from each other.



I felt honoured to be invited along to speak as part of a panel of SEND parents, with our session brief being 'SEND parents: untapped resource or difficult customers?'

I am hoping we will have at least a couple of other people in the room to ask us questions, although to be truthful I'm not totally convinced we'll draw much of a crowd. Largely because it does occasionally feel like parents are the poor relations when it comes to talking about education ideas.

Over the course of two days there will be sessions on everything from how students should be tested, to making maths fun and how teachers can learn to become better teachers. Plus so much more. Including, of course, a few involving that word 'behaviour'.

It's actually such an interesting topic, but it can sometimes bring out the worst in people. Narrow-minded people, who believe that their way is the only way. People, who even when given information and facts about a condition such as Pathological Demand Avoidance (a type of autism, known as PDA), choose to deny its existence and instead see any unusual behaviour as a problem with the parents.

I have spoken with many parents of children with PDA who have been accused of bad parenting. Some have written about their experiences in my series 'This is our PDA Story'. No-one has ever suggested bad or 'not-strict-enough' parenting directly to my face, but I'm sure there have been some who have thought it.

I'm well aware that not everyone 'believes' in PDA and that some think parents use it as an excuse for not being able to control their child's behaviour. Those people though, have obviously never spent time with my younger daughter. They would probably also choose to ignore the fact that our eldest daughter does manage to follow the behaviour norms - 'typical' parenting has worked very well for her.

We have lived and breathed PDA for the past 10 years; right through to recent school refusal. As the common saying goes, 'behaviour is communication'. There is always a reason why our girl won't, or more specifically can't do something, and it is very rarely simply because she doesn't want to.

Despite receiving support, our girl struggles within her mainstream setting for a variety of reasons - many of these are sensory issues. If you ask her, she will say that lessons are boring - interestingly though, she does still say she wants to learn, and to be taught, but in a 'fun' way. This week she asked if she could be taught through her toys. That's quite a tall challenge for a teacher in a mainstream class of 30 children though...

I'm always open to questions about our situation and my hope is that tomorrow I will meet professionals who are ready to learn themselves and to consider the reasons for behaviour - because, let's face it, if their minds are not open, do we really want them teaching our children?


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