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Many children within Early Years settings bring challenging behaviour that practitioners have to learn to manage in a way that suits the child. To find the correct technique, staff would often use observations to identify what may trigger a child to cause the unwanted behaviour and in what way do they react to it.
When observing a child with challenging behaviour on placement, an event sample was used. Event samples are useful as they allow the practitioner to gain a more accurate picture of how frequently a certain type of behaviour is being shown and what may trigger that behaviour. Event samples are usually carried out over several days to be able to get a bigger picture of the child and their behaviour, however, this observation that was carried out, was based throughout one day. The child observed was an almost 6-year-old, male child with severe autism and speech difficulties (Child J).
While a child is learning the desired behaviour, it is also linked to their holistic development and is key in their language acquisition and cognitive development. Normally, a child aged 5-6 years old has adapted to a school setting and understands what acceptable behaviour is. They also have usually made strong friendships and understands the need for rules when playing. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often struggle to appropriately react in social situations and find it harder to bond with other children. They will often isolate themselves, have little or no contact with others and seem most content when they are left in their own world. Getting along with peers, working together and emotionally connecting with them is an important milestone for children to gain. Hobson (2002) believed that thought itself emerges through social relationships. Being able to read someone’s emotions and feelings are fundamental for positive social behaviour as it allows us to empathise with others and form healthy and meaningful relationships. Many people vary in their pro-social behaviour and this can be linked to previous experiences of socialisation such as their level of parental affection, family mental health, attachment security etc. Vygotsky (1934) created the Sociocultural Theory which states that a child’s learning is a social process and cognitive development is strongly based on social interaction. He believed that children should have a relationship with other children as well as adults because it helps a child develop their independence and learn social skills, needed throughout their life. From what was observed, Child J does not interact with any children other than when they are interrupting him from doing what he wants to do. For example, I observed Child J trying to push children off the swings as they were both occupied, and he wanted on. To overcome this behaviour, I used the strategy of a timeout. The child was taken on a walk around the playground, to allow him to calm down and take control of his emotions. At first Child J was screaming and crying because he was being taken away from the swings however after a while he seemed to calm down. Although, when Child J was brought back again, he immediately went back to the swings. Before he was able to attempt to push the children off again, he was brought to the side and it was explained to him that it was not his turn and he had to wait for another child to finish. Child J then stood near the swings, often shouting/ crying, however, when a swing was free, the child was told that because he waited patiently and kept his hands to himself, he could go on the swing. This, therefore, shows the child the appropriate behaviour that he must demonstrate so that he could get on the swing and hopefully he will understand that this is what he must do in the future rather than physically pushing other children. Although this strategy worked in this example, very often it does not and therefore it is important to think of and carry out other strategies in order to control Child J’s unwanted behaviour.
At the age of 5-6 years old, children’s emotional development should be developing to where they are able to express the correct emotions in the appropriate situation. Damasio (1996) observed that when children are not in sync with their emotions, it breaks down their rationality which (with learning) requires the support of emotions. Therefore, it is important that children in the foundation stage are taught about emotions and feelings, both their own and others. Children who may be very emotional (such as children with ASD or Asperger’s) would benefit highly from this as it teaches them coping methods and the appropriate ways to respond to different emotions they may feel or witness. ‘It is vital that when educating our children’s brains, we do not neglect to educate their hearts.’ (Dalai Lama, 2011). For children with ASD, their emotional state can often distract them throughout a day. If a child is confused, scared or nervous about something, they often cannot focus on any of the activities within the school. Very often they cannot communicate their emotional situation and may, therefore, try to communicate through poor behaviour such as hitting, screaming, running away etc. The observation shows Child J demonstrating these behaviours, often screaming and crying or running around, which may demonstrate his possible feelings of confusion or nervousness. Therefore, to help overcome this, Child J responds well to having a routine or timetable. I’m my observation, when the child pushed the table away as another child had not finished his break, this was because Child J was following the normal routine; after snack is eaten, they have to go to the bathroom. But because the other child had not finished his snack, Child J got annoyed because he knew that he had to go to the bathroom next. There is a daily timetable that was implemented in the classroom, for Child J and some of his classmates. This allows Child J to see what he will be doing that day and prevents him from lashing out if something out of the norm was to arise. For example, final assembly, Christmas play practice etc. In the earliest months of a child’s life, they are completely dependent on their mother. Gradually they become more “egocentric” and able to think and express their own feelings or needs. Freud (1923) saw this as three psychodynamic processes that involved the elements of the id, the ego and the superego. He believed that the id was the unconscious part of us that responds to our instincts. He stated that the id focuses on pleasure and the idea that every impulse should be satisfied immediately despite the consequences. Next is the ego, which develops as the decision-making component that works through reason. It considers secondary process thinking, which is realistic and logical. and It works out realistic ways to achieve the demands of the id, understanding the need for compromise. Freud made an analogy stating that the id is like a horse while the ego is its rider. The ego is “like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse.” (Freud, 1923, p.15) The ego allows a person to control their impulses, showing self-control. Finally, the superego combines the morals and values of a society that may be learnt from parents and other adults and is usually it is developed around 3-5 years old. The superego controls the id’s desires, especially the ones that society prohibits e.g. aggression. It also convinces the ego to consider moralistic goals rather than just realistic ones. The superego is made up of two systems: the conscience and the ideal self. The conscience may punish the ego by causing feelings such as guilt. The ideal self is the idea of how you must be, how to treat others and how to act as a member of society. Behaviour is closely linked to the ideal self as the superego may punish itself through guilt, but on the other hand, it can reward positive behaviour through feelings of pride.
Communication and language are very important in a person’s life. It allows people to understand and connect with each other, helping to build positive relationships. At age 5-6, children are learning a lot more words that may be longer and more difficult. They also become more capable of putting words together, becoming more aware of how language sounds and how to combine sounds to make words, for example when you put ‘c’, ‘a’ and ‘t’ together it will make a word; cat. Children with ASD are often diagnosed with having communication problems, with their language being very limited or non-existent. Very often children repeat sentences said to them, talk about themselves in the third person or use gestures or sign language to communicate. It is essential to help children with ASD with their communication skills as it will help them reach their full potential. There are many theories suggestion how children learn language and communication. One of these was brought forward by Skinner (1957). His theory, the empiricist or behaviourist theory, stated that children learn through experience or more specifically, rewards and consequences. His theory states that language is shaped through parents and other adults. It is based on the idea of positive and negative reinforcement. He believed if a certain behaviour is rewarded or reinforced, then it will be more likely to happen again. For example, children are known to imitate and copy adults, often repeating words or phrases that adults have said. Therefore, when a child imitates speech sounds or words, and this imitation is rewarded, children will be encouraged to continue to say those words and phrases. Child J is always encouraged to “use his words” and recently he is starting to understand that he will get what he wants when he does. For example, at snack time, Child J would often say “juice please” to the best of his ability. He is then praised for using his words and given the juice. However, when Child J is having an emotional outburst, he would never use his words but instead resort to screaming, crying or using non-verbal actions, such as pointing. Using a stern or loud voice with Child J often causes more issues as he would shout or cry louder, making his behaviour even worse. The best way to manage this is to ignore his outbursts. This is because most of screaming or crying is an effort to gain attention or to try and get someone to feel sorry for him. Attention is a really big reward for Child J, with it not mattering what type of attention you give. So, when you react to the bad behaviour it often feels like a reward for Child J and the bad behaviour will then continue to happen. Therefore, I have found that the best strategy to use in order to manage this behaviour is to praise Child J, either verbally, giving him attention or rewarding him with something he enjoys, as he is often showing this behaviour as an act for attention.
In the case of Child J, I have found that there is not one strategy that can be used to manage his behaviour, as often what has worked one day will not work on another. However, the majority of the time, Child J is displaying poor behaviour because he wants attention and therefore, very often if an adult is within his proximity, he will not act out. Other times, however, he gets overloaded with what is happening, lashing out violently and verbally, therefore, showing how important it is to constantly try new or previous methods of managing his behaviour in order to figure out how he will react on that specific day to that strategy.
- Kimberley (2015) Managing Challenging Behaviour in Early Years Settings, Available at: http://www.earlyyearscareers.com/eyc/latest-news/managing-challenging-behaviour-in-early-years-settings/ (Accessed: 23/11/18).
- Tassoni, P (2015) Supporting Children with Special Needs. ProQuest Ebook Central [Online]. Available at: https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/seregional-ebooks/detail.action?docID=4093269&query=%22event+sample%22 (Accessed: 23/11/18).
- Tassoni, P (2014) Early Years Educator for the Work-Based Learner. ProQuest Ebook Central [Online]. Available at: https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/seregional-ebooks/reader.action?docID=1791497&query=%22event+sample%22# (Accessed: 23/11/18)
- Department of Education and Training (2006) A basic introduction to child development theories, Available at: http://lrrpublic.cli.det.nsw.edu.au/lrrSecure/Sites/LRRView/7401/documents/theories_outline.pdf(Accessed: 25/11/18).
- Woods, M and Taylor, J (2005) Early Childhood Studies : An Holistic Introduction. ProQuest Ebook Central [Online]. Available at: http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/seregional-ebooks/detail.action?docID=564754 (Accessed: 28/11/18).
- Alcott, M (2002) Introduction to Childrn with Special Needs. ProQuest Ebook Central [Online]. Available at: http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/seregional-ebooks/detail.action?docID=670189 (Accessed: 29/11/18)
- McLeod, S. A. (2016) Id, ego and superego, Available at: https://www.simplypsychology.org/psyche.html (Accessed: 02/12/18).
- Raising Children Network (2017) Language development: 5-8 years, Available at: https://raisingchildren.net.au/school-age/development/language-development/language-5-8-years (Accessed: 02/12/18)
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