Inclusion of children with special needs in schools

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This chapter focuses on the special educational need, behavioural, emotional and social difficulties (BESD). It explores the in inclusion of children with this special educational need in mainstream schools, as well as the implications for teachers in the classroom. It also highlights the support and strategies that literature details need to be in place in order for these children to learn effectively in the mainstream classroom.

In today's modern world, all children no matter their ethnicity, disability or ability matter. They are seen as unique individuals, each with the right to a broad, enjoyable and inclusive education. Every child has the right to be included in classroom learning and given ample opportunities to learn to their potential. In regard to education, "Inclusion is about the quality of children's experiences, how they are helped to learn, achieve and participate fully in the life of the school."

There can be some confusion between the words inclusion and integration. They may have similar spellings, but this is where the similarity ends, as there meanings are very different. Inclusion in terms of education, sees children working alongside each other, sharing experiences, with learning personalised where necessary to enable all children to achieve. Integration on the other hand sees all children together in the classroom, learning exactly the same thing.

Children with special educational needs (SEN) have not always been given the option of mainstream schooling. In the past, children who are now referred to as having SEN were labelled with more derogatory terms such as "handicapped" and "retarded". In the 1940's children with SEN, including those with physical and mental disabilities were educated away from mainstream schools, being taught instead in hospitals or institutions. During this time the government and educators favoured the word segregation rather than inclusion. This is highlighted in the Education Act 1944 which details, "A local education authority shall, in particular, have regard to the need for securing that provision is made for pupils who suffer from any disability of mind or body by providing, either in special schools or otherwise, special educational treatment, that is to say, education by special methods appropriate for persons suffering from that disability." (Chapter 31: 5)

Nonetheless the 1970's was the decade for change, and this was set in motion by MP Margaret Thatcher who commissioned a report "to review the educational provision in England, Scotland and Wales for children and young people handicapped by disabilities of body or mind, taking account of the medical aspects of their needs, together with arrangements to prepare them for entry into employment." (The Warnock Report 1978: 1)

The report was published in 1978, namely 'The Warnock Report', which changed the landscape of inclusive education. The word inclusion exploded into mainstream schools, and children with SEN were given the right to learn alongside other children. Within the report, the aim of inclusion for SEN children in mainstream schools was highlighted along with the need for provisions to be put in place to make it possible. The report stated "Full-time education in an ordinary class should be the aim for many children with special educational needs. It should be possible to achieve this aim in the case of the majority of children with mild learning difficulties, many of whom are at present the concern of remedial services, provided that adequate support is available from teachers with additional training or expertise in special education." (The Warnock Report 1978: 102)

Thirty years on from the original Warnock report, many were beginning to wonder whether inclusion of children with SEN into mainstream schools had been effective. An OFSTED report on inclusion (2004) seemed to be rather sceptical of its success. It detailed that the inclusion of children with SEN was taking place in mainstream schools, but at the detriment to childrens learning. It also mentioned how the curriculum was not being adapted to meet the provisions of children with SEN and offer them "suitable opportunities to improve key skills." (Special Educational Needs and Disability, 2004: 5)

It was seen that the Government had gone too far when it came to inclusion, and were including almost all children with SEN into mainstream, closing special schools to save on costs. OFSTED commented how when inspecting schools they had observed work being explained effectively to pupils, "but pupils with SEN depended on teaching assistants to break the tasks down further so that they could participate."(2004: 16)

This is something that Warnock (2005) cited in a House of Commons Education and Skills Committee report (2006) draws attention to when she notes how children with SEN, "are being taught almost entirely by teaching assistants who are not fully qualified teachers, while non-disabled students are taught by the teacher."

Parents were questioning more and more, whether their child with SEN was learning to their potential in schools, and asking why their child was not being supported by the teacher as much as the other children in the classroom.

Baroness Warnock's change of heart regarding her original vision of inclusion for all children in mainstream schools was made apparent to all when she declared, "I think it's plain now that the notion of inclusion of all children in the same school is… actually not working in a very large number of cases." (Warnock, 2006)

It would appear from this statement that Warnock had conceded that despite the best intentions to include children with SEN into mainstream schools, schools had actually integrated children rather than included them. SEN children were almost been forced into mainstream classrooms, having to cope with the learning that has taken place, rarely having their learning personalised to meet their educational needs.

Dimbleby (2006) really encapsulates in a debate on inclusion the issues of including children with SEN in the classroom. He states "Children with special needs have always posed a core dilemma. On the one hand, can we afford to include them in mainstream education no matter what the cost or upheaval involved? On the other, can we afford not to include them for fear of condemning millions to a life as second class citizen?"

From this small introductory speech the issues that educators and governments face are highlighted. The monetary cost, as well as a child's right to be educated with other children no matter what their ability or disability. Within the debate Warnock mentions how her original 1978 report failed to recognise the variety of special educational needs, instead putting them all under one banner and treating all children the same. Warnock also speaks of her realisation that certain children, especially those with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties (BESD) would benefit from special school teaching and learning. She notes that children with BESD could be educationally intelligent, but have certain difficulties preventing them from achieving to their potential. Warnock also admits that these children would be better of out of mainstream schools, and given the specialist teacher support that will help them achieve.

Six years on from Warnock's change of heart, there are now many more government reports debating inclusion, and questioning where children with SEN should or could be taught. Parental choice is now taken into account when deciding where children with SEN should be taught, with parent being given the opportunity to state where they would prefer their child to be educated. The vision of many is to allow children with SEN to be taught in a school that is going to meet their individual needs. Gove and Teather (2011: 17) refer to this in the Green paper and propose that they "will remove the bias towards inclusion and propose to strengthen parental choice by improving the range and diversity of schools from which parents can choose, making sure they are aware of the options available to them and by changing statutory guidance for local authorities."

From just exploring a brief history of inclusion, it is clear that there are many opinions as to whether or not the inclusion of children with BESD into mainstream schools has been successful and effective. BESD is a complex special educational need, far more unpredictable than any other. "The challenge for educators in the twenty first century in terms of managing the issue of pupils who exhibit difficulties with social, emotional and behavioural aspects of their lives is the tension between the twin issues of incidence and time to deal with incidence." (McNamara, 2006: 24)

This statement portrays the challenges teachers' face in the classroom when dealing with BESD. Children with BESD have the capability to be disruptive and dangerous in the classroom, and teachers face the challenge of managing these behaviours, ensuring at the same time every child in the classroom is learning to their potential in a safe environment. There are some who believe that because of these challenges, children with BESD would be better of learning in special schools, giving them access to more specialised teaching and more one to one support. Conversely, there are people who believe that children with BESD should be taught in mainstream, despite the challenges posed to teachers. To able to fully understand what stance to take, it is essential to explore what BESD and its presence in the classrooms of today.

Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties (BESD)

Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties (BESD) is a special educational need that affects many children in the UK. These children have behavioural problems, as well as emotional needs, and find it difficult to interact in social situations. In short, children with BESD find it hard to access certain areas of the curriculum in order to achieve to their potential. "Broadly, it is that behaviour, emotions and social development all influence learning and access to learning. Difficulties with behaviour, emotions and social development can all inhibit learning and access to learning. In the current jargon, they can form barriers to learning."(Farrell 2006:6)

Children with BESD do not fall under any one specific stereotype. It does not matter what a child's ability is, they can still have BESD, varying from mild to severe. Those children with mild difficulties may lack social skills and therefore struggle with group interactions, especially in learning situations. East and Evans (2006: 15) detail how "At the milder end of the continuum, pupils have problems with social interaction and find it difficult to work with others."

Children with severe difficulties may be physically and verbally aggressive, especially towards teachers and peers. They are unable to work in social situations as they have little or no concentration and communication skills. Children with BESD can also find it difficult to cope with changes in routine, which in relation to classroom life, can be a frequent occurrence. Children are usually recognised as having BESD when they portray a range of behaviours which:

"Is not age appropriate

Results in isolation from peers

Negatively affects the classroom/learning environment

Places unreasonable demands on teaching staff

Leads to negative self concept and low self-esteem

Restricts learning opportunities

Creates dangerous situations."

(Evans, 2007: no page)

The behaviours identified by Evans encompass the spectrum of behaviours, from mild to severe, that a child with BESD can portray. As already discussed, a child of any ability can have BESD, which is also true for a child of any age. From past school experiences, two children in two separate schools had typical characteristics of children with BESD. One child was in year 6, and the other in year 1, with the later showing all of the above characteristics most of the time.

In today's classrooms, there are a rather high number of children that have the special education needs known as BESD. The Green Paper (2010: 20) mentions "the number of pupils with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties has increased by 23 per cent between 2005 and 2010 to 158,000 pupils."

These figures emphasise that over a five year period, there has been approximately an additional 29,545 children recognised as having BESD. Through looking further into the statistical data available surrounding BESD, there have been an number of interesting findings.

From the statistical data, it is clear that there is one gender more common to having BESD. "26,170 (17.2 per cent of) boys with statements had behavioural, emotional and social difficulties, compared to 3,590 (6.2 per cent of) girls." (DfE Special Needs Analysis 2010:12)

This data, which focused on children aged 4 - 18, shows there is a remarkably high difference between the two genders with boys seven times more likely to have BESD. Brown and Schoon (2010: 167-168), mention in their research of the behaviour of children aged 7 that "the proportion of boys classified as showing serious behaviour problems was around twice that of girls (10% compared with 5%)."

Although completely different pieces of research, the overwhelming difference between gender and behaviour is apparent. It is also interesting to note the percentage of children with BESD in primary and secondary school. The DfE Special Needs Analysis (2010: 18) recorded that 12% of statemented children in primary school, and 18% of children in secondary school had BESD and mentioned "Behaviour, emotional and social difficulties was the most prevalent type of need for pupils between the ages of 11 and 15 years."

It is very interesting to note that the findings from DfE Special Needs Analysis (2010: 6) also highlighted that statemented children with BESD "were more likely to be eligible for free school meals."

The question asked must be whether environmental factors such as socioeconomic class have an impact on children's behaviour. Washbrook (2010: 1) refers to the possible connection between social class and children's behaviour and details "that behaviour problems are much more common among disadvantaged children prior to the start of schooling, and these differentials change little between the ages of 3 and 7."

Ethnicity was also identified as an additional factor, with the most likely ethnicity of a child with BESD recorded in various research as being Afro-Caribbean. Brown and Schoon (2010: 168) in their extensive research specified how "the greatest proportion with particularly high scores was found amongst Black Caribbean children; 13 per cent were classified as having serious behavioural problems."

The DfE Special Needs Analysis (2010: 20) also recorded similar findings, mentioning how "Black and mixed race pupils at school action plus were most likely to have behavioural, emotional and social difficulties."

It is important to note that the data researched was based on children who were on School action plus, an extra support service offered on top of other support from external sources. It does not mean that children on school action plus are the only children that have BESD. There are many other children in mainstream schools who have not been, or are waiting to be statemented who do have BESD, and have not been included in published research statistics.

However, exploring the data that have been published, the most common factors of BESD are:

Male gender


Low Socioeconomic class

It is essential to remember that there are other children not statemented and therefore not recorded in some statistical data that may have BESD in schools. It is important to stress the importance of not stereotypically judging a child's special education need. Just because they may not fall in line with the common factors mentioned above, does not mean they do not have BESD, equally a child who meets all these criteria may not have BESD.

Disadvantages and Advantages of Mainstream Schooling

There seems to be many opinions as to whether or not children with BESD should be taught in mainstream classrooms. Some believe it is beneficial to the child with BESD, others believe it to be disadvantageous for the other children in the classroom, as they will be distracted from learning. Sommefeldt (2006: 96) researched teachers' views on inclusion of children with BESD. One such view focused on a negative aspect and detailed inclusion was "Detrimental to all - both those with needs (lack of specialized / individual help and attention) and those without (left to cope alone with the curriculum because the teachers attention is focused on [special] needs)"

It is apparent from this statement, that having a child with BESD in the classroom demands much of the teachers' time, and their attention will be focused on one specific child a lot of the time. Evans (2007: 56) mentions how "there is also a concern about the detrimental effect on the learning of other pupils in the class."

With teachers' time and attention being focused on a child with BESD, it can be the case that the other children are left to manage on their own, or continue working through the potential distractions, both of which could potentially have damaging effects on their education. East and Evans (2006: 15) speak of how difficult it can be for a teacher to manage both a whole class, and a child with BESD when they note, "Children considered to have behavioural, emotional and social difficulties often present a far greater challenge than pupils with other kinds of special needs."

This quote reiterates what has been previously mentioned regarding the complexity of BESD, and how it is special educational need that can be very difficult for a teacher to manage, due to the challenge of never knowing how a child is going to act or react in the classroom.

Focusing on the impact mainstream education could have on a child with BESD, some believe they would not get the specialist, small group support they need in order to achieve in school. OFSTED (2006: 3) in their key findings cite an important reason for why some pupils with BESD do not achieve in mainstream and detail how "pupils in mainstream schools where support from teaching assistants was the main type of provision were less likely to make good academic progress than those who had access to specialist teaching in those schools."

It is inevitable that at times during the day, teachers will look to teaching assistants to support certain children's learning, especially if a child with BESD is in the classroom. However, TA's are not qualified teachers, so some argue they do not offer children with behavioural difficulties enough teaching and learning support in order for them to achieve. The occasional overuse of TA's to support children with BESD is referred to by Blatchford, Russell, Bassett, Brown and Martin (2004: 20) in their research which mentions how "There is something paradoxical about the least qualified staff in schools being left to teach the most educationally needy pupils."

This may form part of the reason for why some parents opt to send their children to special schools, as they believe their child will receive the best support to help them develop in their thinking.

Obviously there are disadvantages of including a child with BESD into mainstream teaching, both for the child and for their peers. However, it cannot be denied that there are similarly many positives that come from including children with BESD in the mainstream classroom.

Sommefeldt's research (2006: 96) does not only focus on the negatives of mainstream inclusion. Many positives of mainstream education for children with BESD are also expressed. One teacher gave a personal opinion and stated "It is my philosophy that all pupils should have an equal opportunity to access the mainstream curriculum."

Children with BESD can be taught in special schools, but they also have the right to be taught in mainstream classrooms as well. As already mentioned, there are some that believe these children should be taught in special schools. These children may however be educationally able and therefore thrive from learning with other children that are of a similar ability. Fogell and Long (1997: 85) bring to light a potential negative sending a child with BESD to special school may have as they question "the possible impact of placing a child with emotional and behavioural difficulties alongside a number of other children with exactly the same difficulties."

This encompasses two advantages of mainstream schools, one from the educational ability aspect, and the other from the social aspect. Within the primary classroom, children with BESD can socialise with peers who do not have special educational needs, and who model various positive behaviours which can be observe on a daily basis by a child with BESD. In special schools, children with BESD usually interact with those with similar difficulties to them, and therefore lack the positive peer behaviour models a mainstream classroom can offer.

Another advantage of including children with BESD in mainstream classrooms is allowing 'normal' children the opportunity to interact with and understand those with special educational needs. By teaching children about differences, and giving them the chance to learn with children that have special educational needs, they can develop an understanding, compassion and tolerance for those who they may not necessarily have met outside the classroom environment. Khalsa and Miyake (2005: 8) note the benefit of children forming an understanding of special needs when they state, "The inclusive classroom welcomes diversity and the wide range of student needs that accompany students' differences. Teachers who help children understand and discuss differences help create an educational environment that supports empathy for all individuals."

There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to mainstream inclusion, however if a child with BESD is taught in a mainstream school, then it is essential that the school does everything possible to allow them to flourish in a happy, inclusive environment.

A School's Role

Mainstream schools who offer classroom places for children with special needs, including children with BESD, must have an understanding of what inclusion is. This understanding must be shown through the way the school is run. Schools should not look to change the children with special education needs, but instead look to change the school to become inclusive for all. This is referred to by McLeskey and Waldron (2000: 40) when they comment that, "One of the most important issues to keep in mind when developing an inclusive school is that these programs should address the need to provide a better education for all students in a school."

In order for children with BESD to achieve effectively in mainstream classrooms, schools must bare in mind a number of factors including:

Individualised Education Program (IEP)

Teacher Support / Training

Personalised Learning

Every Child Matters (ECM)

A child with special educational needs should have an IEP, which will detail what support the child is going to receive for that specific educational year. Schools must put these in place to ensure the parent(s) and teachers know the support that will be offered to the child, whether that be through one to one sessions with special teachers, or personalised support within the classroom. All staff working with a child with special educational needs must be given access to their IEP allowing them to understand the support and strategies in place, so they could in turn offer effective teaching and continuity for the child. Wilmshurst and Brue (2010: 211) detail the importance of an IEP and mention, "The IEP spells out the types of services, their frequency and duration, and the setting in which they will be provided, all of which are very important information for the service providers."

Schools must therefore appreciate the importance of IEP's and do everything they can to create ones which are personalised for each child with special educational needs which is going to help them achieve to their potential. The creation of IEP's requires a great time commitment, which Twachtman-Cullen and Twachtman-Bassett (2011: 69) mention, "Unfortunately, many professionals find data collection, and all that it entails, formidable. After all, in this busy world of ours data collection involves, paper-work, analysis, and interpretation - all of which are time consuming."

However, if a school wants to include children with SEN into classroom teaching and learning effectively, then this process needs to be undertaken in a slow, concise, professional manner.

Schools must ensure that teachers are given support in order for them to effectively include and teach children with BESD in the mainstream classroom.

The White Paper (2010: 32) recognised "Only around half of teachers believed that there was appropriate support available in their school for teachers struggling to manage pupil behaviour."

This, along with other reports, recognise and emphasise the importance of giving teachers extra training to ensure that they understand different behaviours and have the capacity to deal with them in the classroom environment. One form of support offered to teachers could be in the form of training and insets, giving them a greater insight into the strategies that could be initiated in the classroom to deal with children who have BESD. OFSTED (2005: 12) detailed the importance of staff understanding, and how "Regular training that links classroom practice to an understanding of how children develop socially and emotionally is central to the effective understanding and management of behaviour."

Another form of support schools might offer teachers could be giving them the opportunity to liase with teachers from special schools who have first hand experience of teaching children with BESD. These specialised teachers can offer advice, share strategies, and help ensure that the inclusion of a child with BESD in the classroom is positive and effective for their learning. Senco Penny Rice (2006) visited a special school to observe strategies used to deal with BESD and gain advice from teachers, which she could take back to her school and implement into the relevant classrooms. In her description of the day she highlighted the positives of visiting the special school environment when she stated "I found today's experience very useful for my own personal practice, exciting, because I could see children's behaviour being turned round even just in one day, erm, and I could see children's confidence being raised, and that is very, very, very, important."

Schools should give all staff, especially their SENCO's this opportunity, to improve their understanding of BESD, and keep up to date with current support strategies, because teachers with BESD children in their classroom usually rely on their SENCO for support and advise.

There are many strategies that teachers could use to help include children with BESD in classroom learning. One of the most obvious strategies is to make sure that children with BESD have been set work and tasks, which are achievable. This means that they are kept on task rather than losing concentration because they do not understand or are finding something difficult. Another important strategy is positive reinforcement and reward of good behaviour, rather than only sanctioning bad behaviour. The way a child is rewarded will depend on the child and how the child responds to rewards. Howarth and Fisher (2005: 42) point out how rewards can vary and how "some will accept individually tailored reward systems while others will respond more positively to class and school based systems. The essential thing to remember is that rewards support and reinforce pupils learning."

A strategy which if effectively implemented could be very beneficial is a target behaviour chart. Teachers could set children with BESD targets and if they succeed, they could be given a reward. However, the child would need to be able to achieve these targets otherwise they could become despondent having tried and failed to achieve. The chart would be very visual and would allow the child to see what they had achieved, and have a sense of pride. Another possible strategy to control the behaviour of a child with BESD is time out. This method affords the teacher time to gain control of the situation, gives the child time to reflect on why they behaved in the way they did and what they could do next time to stop it from happening. Rogers (2003: 106) describes how "many infant and middle primary teachers have in-class time-out options to give the offending student 'cool-off time' and 'thinking' time."

By giving children with behavioural difficulties these opportunities to reflect, it allows the situations to become less heated, and for a new start to take place once they recognise what they did wrong.

Any schools main aim should be to help children to develop, learn and achieve. Children with special educational needs including, those with BESD, may need their learning to be personalised so that they can concentrate on areas of the curriculum they struggle with. This will allow them to learn more effectively, rather than being exposed to in learning that they find difficult to access and understand. Cheminais (2007: 71) affirms this when she notes how "providing personalised services and tailored education, will ensure that every child and young person, regardless of their background, reaches their optimum potential and experiences improved life chances."

It is important for schools to remember, that although some children pose many more challenges then others, every child in their school matters. The government released a document detailing the fact that every child has the right to a safe and effective education."Every Child Matters is about improving the life chances of all young people, from birth to 19, reducing inequalities and helping them to achieve better outcomes." (Cheminais, 2010: 3)

If schools keep this in mind, then all children, not only those with special educational needs, will have a well rounded, happy education.

There are many challenges that schools face when including children with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties. However, if they stick to their beliefs, implement strategies, support teachers, and work together with outside assistance, the inclusion of these children can be successful.


It is difficult to conclude on whether children with BESD should be taught in mainstream classrooms, because of the range of views found when researching. There are many who believe children with BESD should be taught in special schools, so that they can achieve educationally with specialised support, and so the other children in the classroom are not disrupted in their learning. They believe the impact of including a child with BESD in the classroom would be too much for a teacher to deal with, and would be damaging for other children's education. However, there are people who think children with BESD should be taught in mainstream classrooms, and given the opportunity to learn alongside other children who may not have special educational needs. By being included in mainstream learning, they are developing their social skills and getting an equal opportunity to learn to their potential. One thing is for certain; the inclusion of a child with BESD is not a quick and simple task. If schools are going to include children with BESD, they must have an understanding of this special education need, and have the correct classroom strategies in place. There needs to be support given to teachers, so that they are able to give these children the best possible chances to learn to their potential. Strategies need to be discussed, tested and effectively implemented in order for teaching and learning to occur for all children, as inclusion is not just about the child with BESD, but about all children learning in the classroom.

The research that follows this Literature review was carried out in order form a greater understanding of the inclusion of children with BESD in the classrooms of today. Teachers' opinions and views of mainstream inclusion, as well as details of their experiences, including the support and strategies they use to manage a child with BESD have been explored. This research will ultimately give a greater insight into presence of BESD in schools, and help to develop teaching experience and understanding for future years.

References for Lit Review

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Farrell, M. (2006). The Effective Teachers Guide to Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties: Practical Strategies. Oxon: Routledge.

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Brown, M. and Schoon, I.. (2010). Child Behaviour. In: Hansen, K., Jones, E., Joshi, H. and Budge, D. Millennium Cohort Study Fourth Survey: A User's Guide to Initial Findings. 2nd ed. London: Centre for Longitudinal Studies.

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Sommefeldt, D. (2006). Perceptions of Inclusion: educational access for all? In: Hunter-Carsch, M., Tiknaz, Y., Cooper, P. and Sage, R. The handbook of social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. London: Continuum International Publishing Group.

OFSTED. (2006). Inclusion: does it matter where pupils are taught? London: OFSTED

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East, V. and Evans, L. (2006). At a glance: a practical guide to Children's Special Needs. 2nd ed. London: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Blatchford, P., Russell, A., Bassett, P., Brown, P. and Martin, C. (2004). The Role and Effects of Teaching Assistants in English Primary Schools. London: Institute of Education

Fogell, J. and Long, R. (1997). Spotlight on Special Educational Needs: Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties. Staffordshire: Nasen.

Khalsa, S. and Miyake, Y. (2005). Inclusive Classroom: A Practical Guide for Educators. Tucson: Good Year Books


Twachtman-Cullen, D. and Twachtman-Bassett, J. (2011). The IEP from A to Z - How to create meaningful and measurable goals and objectives. California: Jossey Bass.

Wilmshurst, L. and Brue, A. (2010). The Complete Guide to Special Education - Expert Advice on Evaluations, IEP's, and Helping Kids Succeed. 2nd ed. California: Jossey Bass

OFSTED (2005) Managing Challenging Behaviour. London: OFSTED

Howarth, R. and Fisher, P. (2005). Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties. London: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Rogers, B. (2003). Behaviour Recovery: Practical programs for challenging behaviour. 2nd ed. Victoria: ACER Press.

Rice, P. 'Primary Special Needs - Tackling Challenging Behaviour 1' Teachers. TV. 28th April 2006. (13:32-13:49/14.02) [Accessed on 21st March 2011]