Behaviour Matters

Archive for May, 2012

Early Years Education

Recently there have been many changes to the Early Years curriculum.  The changes have been introduced to ensure that all children ae receiving a good standard of education before they start formal school in the term that they turn 5.  All of this seems on the surface to be very sensible and well thought through.  Many schools and nurseries have developed their way of meeting all of the standards and understand the need for these changes, even the next set of changes which will be put into place in September.  My concern with all of these curriculum changes and the way we (early educators and childcare staff) are expected to do so much recording of children’s progress that the children have less contact with the adults.  I really enjoy my role in the school I work in as I can give the child and other children a lot of attention. I play with the children and get to know them as individuals rather than as a report that needs to be written or an observation that needs to be carried out.  (I work for the supply service as a TA, and not for the school)

The children in the nurseries and schools are not missing out on anything, there are staff there who will put the welfare of the child before the paperwork, and many who will stay late for no extra money to ensure the environment is prepared for the children.  They plan suitable activities to encourage learning and these are adjusted to meet the needs of the children. 

With in the childcare industry the staff do all of this and more for minimum wage, yet on the whole the childcare in Britain is the most expensive in Europe.  Government wants the staff teams to give the highest quality of care with the best learning experiences possible and yet do not subsidise the industry, the rely on the passion of the individuals to work long hours for minimum wages.

So next time you drop your child off at school or nursery or with the child minder, think for a moment about the work these adults do, how they strive to make the care they give your child as good as they can, them remember that many of these people are on a basic salary, (even a nursery mananger will only be paid around £15000pa).  They work long hours to ensure your child is well cared for, and given opportunities to to develop in all areas, they are not just baby sitters who let your children play all day.  Every movement of the child has to be recorded, all activities are planned in advance, every activity is reviewed and every meal is recorded.  There is a lot more to the work than people realise.

 

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What is mandatory?

According to my very big dictionary mandatory means obligatory or compulsory, but in the area of health and social care it seems to have a slightly different definition.  Let me explain.  John wants to open a care home for the elderly.  He finds a house with lots of rooms, arranges with the council and social services on what care he will provide, he meets all the standards for fire and care etc.  He writes lots of policies and procedures and employs staff.  Everything is great, residents come in, all is looking good.  All of his staff have an induction which covers the policies and procedures, they have some training in first aid, health and safety and a little bit of fire safety and food hygiene (this is statutory not mandatory) John is the appointed first aider and fire marshal and health and safety rep for the company.  Now in Johns business plan he does not offer any medical care, and will employ people with a level 2 qualification in health and social care.  The policy on training states the training will be delivered as and when to meet client needs. 

This all sounds good and is perfectly acceptable.  But here’s the problem.  John doers not need to give his staff any other training.  Nothing about dementia care, communication, data protection, models of behaviour, administration of medication, person centered planning, disability awareness, nutrition and diet training, safety of vulnerable adults, report writing or anything.  To me this is all mandatory training, but as John very cleverly did not mention anything specifically in his training policy so he does not have to deliver it.  There are guidelines on what he should be providing, but this is not mandatory unless he states it in his policy. 

Without the training clients are at risk of abuse and harm which is ultimately pretty bad for John’s care home.  Staff feel unappreciated and have no loyalty to John or the clients. 

Now I know things are tough right now and training budgets are the first to be cut.  But there is a very strong argument for training.  It supports personal development, it encourages safe working practices, it protects the vulnerable, it provides a more coherent staff team, this all leads to a good image in the industry, staff stating with you longer (which cuts the cost of ongoing training), better occupancy figures, which all results in more profit.

So if you are ever looking for residential care for any family member remember to ask about staff training model, if it is a bit vague, then staff probably wont have all the skills needed to provide a full and rounded care model.  Look for specific training that will enhance the care given and show understanding of needs. 

Medical model v Social Model

Some of you reading this will know exactly what I am on about other may not so to explain it quickly…the medical model of disability concentrates on what a person cant do due to their disability and the social model focuses more on abilities rather than disabilities.

Now we all know that the Government in their wisdom are currently looking at ways to save money, many people with disabilities will tell you that the forms needed to get any sort of funding are ridiculously long and do not make life easy anyway, so why make life even more difficult.  But they are so people do what they have to do.  One of the main problems I have found in the past when completing forms for DLA was the need to focus on the medical model, when as a carer or parent we naturally focus on the positives.  This seems to contradict the Governments policies on inclusion and equality.  To enable people to get the funding they need for extra support in school or to claim benefits that allow them to live comfortably and even to get the medication needed they need to continue to live is all based on describing the worst possible scenario of symptoms, what the person cannot do on their worst days.  They then have to describe their worst days, and how it affects other people.  If you have a mental health illness this focusing on negatives can make the whole process extremely difficult.  Can you imagine how focusing on those factors that make you ill will affect you.  Even the strongest and most grounded person will feel desperately alone and drained after completing these forms, so for a person with mental health issues this must be excruciatingly painful.  And yet to ensure you get the funding, educational and health care you require you need to go through this process and now our Government are going to make the process more difficult.  To me this will only result in the most deserving not receiving.  The only people who will receive the benefits are those who already know how to play the system and claim more than their entitlement.  Not actually helping the countries economic deficit.  But that’s a personal opinion so please don’t berate me for it.

In my role, which ever it is at a time, I look for and easily find the positives in situations.  I definitely focus on the social model of a disability, look for the things people can do on their best days, then find a way to make their best days more frequently.  Ok so this process may take some time and other areas of development are being ignored.  But I strongly believe that people will develop in their own time, and that pushing them into areas of development they are not ready for will cause long term negative responses to that particular area of development.  For example, a child learning to read.  Most children can cope with the learning to read process form the age of four or five.  But if they are struggling to keep up with their peers and begin to see this, as well as finding the process almost painful, then why should we continue to push them.  I would suggest leaving them for a few months, allow them to develop their self confidence and self belief, then go back to reading.  To me this is again a fundamental part of inclusion and adapting our expectations of achievement.  Looking at the social model of learning rather than the academic model. 

I could go on, but I think you can all see my point, focus on the individual and what they can do, then they can develop more complex skills. Inclusion is about adapting our own expectations and environments to make the world an easier place to be for everyone.

Metamorphosis

As a species we don’t go through a stage of metamorphosis, we are born as a human and we die as a human.  Yet we do change, we go through many stage in our lives some are physical, social, emotional and in most cases intellectually too.  Yet our life styles, social standing, and ideas can change to a very great extent with very little in put and a lot of circumstantial change.

I was raised in a fairly wealthy family, the youngest of three children.  Poverty and doing with out were not major memories of my childhood, I didn’t get everything I wanted, but deprivation was definitely not on the horizon, as much as I thought I was being hard done by at the time.  I had a pretty good standard of living and many choices.  Then I got married, had two wonderful children and although finances were a bit tight, again we didn’t suffer and I was able to be a stay at home mum for all the pre-school years of both my children.  But life had changed.  Then due to separation, depression, stress things became more difficult.  By this time I had a job/career, but as a single parent this was difficult to juggle with work.  finances became very tight, I would walk 4 miles to work, eat as little as possible so that the children got fed, remortgaged the house a number of times, lived of credit cards, and contemplated suicide. (I have considered this about three times in my life so far). My life was unrecognisable to me at this time.  How had I ended up so lonely, sad, and scared?  I didn’t show this, just kept pushing through, laughing and joking, socialising and pretending.  I am not sure how I eventually cam through this, but I did, life was good again.  Still a single mum, but holding down a good job in a college, working term time only, so I could be there for my children. After a few years and more thoughts of suicide, I found a wonderful person to live with, life was good, then the financial burdens of life took over.  My partner lost his job, then I lost mine, we sold just about everything we could, made a loss on a lot of items, the house was about a week from repossession, we owed money left right and centre, refused to answer the telephone and screened callers, we knew who we owed money too and what their telephone numbers were.  But again we got through it.   Now I am in a good place in my life.  Looking forward to getting married in a few weeks. During the darkest times I have always thought about my children, they have brought me back to the lighter times, and I have promised my self I wont go back there again.  All of the events in my life have also contributed to a change in social standing in life, from a upper middle class child, to a middle class working family, to a lower class single parent, back to middle class working single parent, through a brief period of upper middle class due to employment position, to lower class unemployed benefit claimant, and now returning to the lower middle class.  To me it’s all a bit silly, but there are a lot of people who really yearn to move up through the class system.  I am more concerned about being a happy me, than worry about what other people think.

Finally how do our thought and ideas change.  Some of the changes come just through the aging process and where we are in life.  But other ideas and thoughts are influenced by circumstance.  Currently my ideas about business are being influenced by both circumstance and opportunity.  A year ago I started OAG consultants.  I used all of my savings (well most of them) which came from an inheritance to start a business and work for my self, as working for other people at the time was not a viable option.  My idea was to help people working in the care sector understand behaviour.  A simple concept, but it changed, and it changed and it changed and now it has changed again.  The basis of the company is still the same but the way to get there changes almost daily in response to finance, need and availability.  I am not sure how much this is down to poor planning on my part, not researching thoroughly enough, and how much it is due to changes in circumstance, but my company is changing all the time. 

So although we are born human and die human so there is no biological metamorphosis in our lives we do change in many ways, we adapt to circumstance, our ideas reflect the situations we are in and if we don’t keep moving and changing we will suffer.

 

confidence

Sitting here this morning I began to think about the past few days of tweeting and meeting people, making telephone calls, emails and responses to tweets.

Yesterday I received an email from the university and immediately started to question my self and my ability to complete this degree.  I felt like I am being summoned to the heads office like a child, as if I’m going to told off and be told that I cannot complete the course.  So I am now very reluctant to go and will be on the defensive when I do go, as I know I must.  Also during my tweeting last night and Sunday night one or two people made comment on my tweets, questioning what I had said.  This again made me question what I am doing, can I really do this, why am I trying?  I was getting quite upset by it and was planning a full on response, with statistics and solid arguments in my favour, and yet I let it go.  Was this strength, knowing I am right and not needing to justify my self? Or was it weakness, why should I bother trying to explain my self, they wont listen any way? Either way I didn’t respond fully and felt really bad that people questioned me. (Although it was more of a correction than question) People should question me though, that’s what encourages me to learn more.

Any way this is what has led me to question my self this morning, and the answer is that I can do this, I am doing it right, well im doing it my way and that is right for me.  But my confidence in my own ability of being a business woman is fading again.  I know i need to make telephone calls but usually chicken out and use emails instead, but this isn’t the right way to get noticed.  People call me and I am eager to meet them in person to discuss ideas, I have telephone numbers just waiting to be called to discuss ideas but seem unable to bring myself to do it, cold calling is not a strong point of mine, but I can’t afford to employ someone else to do it for me, and I also know that once I start I can do it and it isn’t as scary as I make it in my head.

This blog seems to ramble a bit, very mixed, not very focused.  But that’s how I feel this morning.  I need to get my head back into some sort of order and rebuild my confidence so that I can move forward.

Any way to end I’d just like you all to think about how your actions, however well intended, can affect the confidence of others.

PS jut to make me feel better,

1. I do know that flapping is referred to as stimming, but a lot of my followers on twitter may not know that, so I used the term flapping as it is more generically understood.

2. Cochlear implants do not work for every deaf person and so my analogy still stands.

3. I did not mistype stimming, it was auto correct.

4. I am entitled to my opinion on immigrants and jobs as much as the next person

5. If you dont like my opinions of sharing and equality then you are entitled to unfollow me, but that just shows your inflexibility of thought.

Sorry just needed to get that off my chest!

SATS, Exams, Assessments and non competative sports

When my children were at school the SATS were just being introduced.  I think my daughter was in year two she was the second or third cohort of SATS.  As parents we were told that the SATS were there to assess the standard of teaching and not the child’s abilities. When did this change?  It is now used as a tool to group children in terms of ability. I always told my children that the tests or exams they take today will only determine the time until the next exam or test.  They do not determine the rest of your life, although teachers seem to think that they will.  As with any exam it will gauge your level of understanding of a topic on that day, there are too many variables for it to be an accurate assessment of your true abilities.  I read a comment on Twitter earlier that was along the lines of ‘why do we forget everything we studied the minute we leave the exam room’  To me the answer is simple, for exam purposes we store the information in short term memory, once used we can either forget it or transfer it to long term memory, most of us forget it, or at the very least forget most of it.  Of the exams I took in my final year of school, I cannot remember much of it, there was something about how many coins of the same value you can legal use to pay for things, I remember learning about rivers, and never understanding binary.  Ok I admit that was all a very long time ago, but at the same time I was training to be a referee for judo competitions, and I can remember a lot more of that  and I haven’t used that for over 25 years.  My point is that we push our children to achieve grades to progress them onto the next stage in their life, but it is not information they will remember for any length of time unless they are either exceptional or using it regularly.    Why is it important that at the age of 10 a child can plot a point on a map using co-ordinates or know how to measure the perimeter of a square or distinguish a polygon from a pentagon.  To me it would be wiser to ensure they can add, subtract, divide and multiply effectively and using various language for the operations.  Consolidate learning so that it becomes more of a long term memory.

You may be asking what all of this has to do with non competitive sports.  It is quite simple, the argument given in primary education when asked why children do not compete during sports is that children’s self esteem is damaged when they lose, so we play games that encourage sport for enjoyment.  Sport takes up about 1 hour of the school week, some children, especially as they get older, do find sports difficult; hand eye coordination, contact, etc. but then many children find maths and spelling difficult yet they take up over half of the school week and we encourage competition through testing and examining short term memory.

There may be educators reading this who will possibly not like my final comment, but parents please do not force academic education onto your children, unless they want to learn, SATS and exams are not the determining factor in life, they just determine the time until the next exam or test.  Allow children time to enjoy education, they benefit much more from that.

Behaviour Matters

Every thing we do in life and everything we say affects someone else.  It is a behaviour. We all have behaviours, some of them other people will find challenging or at the least irritating, but other people wont be affected by them at all.  I believe that all behaviour is a form of communication, and once you can translate it you can then understand it and then you can cope with it.  I cant change or manages a person’s behaviour, the individual has to do that, but I can learn to understand it, so that it becomes less of a challenge. 

A scenario for you.  A young woman of 16 is sitting and watching what you are doing, she is calm and there is no sign of threat, then she picks up a full 2 litre bottle of juice and throws it at you, then runs away, laughing, and goes into her bedroom.  Would you say that is acceptable behaviour?  I wouldn’t, and it did happen to me. 

Now I tell you about the young woman.  She is in care after being taken from her parents care due to a situation of neglect.  She has Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and a learning difficulty.  Does this make the behaviour acceptable? I think not, but I can understand her a little bit more now, and maybe I’m not quite as angry as I was.

Now I tell you a little of what I was doing.  I was in the kitchen making sandwiches for lunch, the young woman was watching me, and chatting to me.  The telephone rang, so I answered it.  Does this make her behaviour acceptable? Again I say no, the behaviour was in no way acceptable and will never be.  But considering her level of understanding and my lack of thought. At that point the young lady understood that I was now ignoring her, she wanted my attention, she has learnt that throwing things at people gets their attention, and if she runs off, they will follow.  To her it is a game, she does not comprehend the dangers of throwing things at people. 

Once you start to see things from a different perspective you can begin to change your attitude to behaviour and consider other ways of dealing with situations.  I knew from that point on that if I was talking to this particular person and the telephone rang, I either explained to her that I needed to answer it or I ignored it.  The young lady then learnt That I respected her, and did not ignore her, if she wanted my attention, throwing things was not the right way to go about it.  She has then managed her behaviour because I facilitated the change. 

All neuro-typical people can adapt and change their attitudes and behaviours quite easily, if they want to.  People who are not neurotypical, can have a lot more trouble in making those changes, but with help, understanding and a lot of patience, they may be able to make small changes.

If you would like to know more or if you ever encounter challenging behaviours and want to learn some strategies to help call me or email me.

 

Thanks