Principal, Tina Harris, explains how a staged approach can be a success for students with both their behaviour and their learning and explains the importance of consistency in this approach.
Some of our students can, at times, communicate their feelings inappropriately and this can present as aggressive or violent behaviour. Our job is to help them learn strategies to recognise, communicate and manage feelings appropriately. Learning from incidents is a big part of this process, which is why our resolution process is so important.
Context and Purpose of Resolution:
The purpose of resolution is to help a student learn from any incident or wrong-doing. It is not just about expecting an apology and if we start from this point we are missing out important steps. The student might go through a process of apologising and “move on” on one occasion, but unless these stages are followed each time it is highly likely that they won’t internalise any real learning from incidents.
This staged approach is a proven process for real learning to take place during resolution. However you will need to do this many times (following each incident) and show consistency in your language to make progress. Be prepared to internalise these stages yourself and don’t expect our students to take responsibility without our support; that is why they are here!
When calm, open up a discussion with the student about what happened to annoy/frustrate/anger them. Let them label the feelings, it might re-escalate a situation if you make assumptions at this stage. If there is conflict with another student or member of staff let the student talk/draw/communicate about their feelings/their reasons for that feeling. They are more likely to open up a discussion if their issues are being acknowledged and listened to.
This is opening up a discussion about how they managed the feelings in stage 1. How they dealt with the annoyance or frustration.
It is vital to separate out these two stages. The student is more likely to take responsibility for their actions if they feel that their feelings have been listened to, acknowledged and empathised with. We can understand a student’s feelings, what we are trying to help them learn is how to manage that feeling.
A student will be less likely to take any kind of responsibility for their actions without separating out these two stages. The autistic mind will not be able to separate these out necessarily without our support and they will just feel they are being told off/having consequences for both the action and the feeling and won’t feel this is fair. They will still bear grudges for the other student making them feel like that and there won’t be true resolution.
This is to help the student take responsibility for how they managed the feeling. It is important to separate out stage 1 and 2 for the student to be able to do this.
This leads instantly into a discussion about what would have been a better way of dealing with the feeling. Stage 3 is all about the student taking responsibility that there was a better choice of managing the situation. This leads into a discussion around strategies and helps the student take a lead in developing/adapting/tweaking their strategies to really take ownership of managing the way they communicate their feelings and therefor manage their behaviour.
It is important for the student to realise that whilst someone may have done something to them, and they did feel annoyed/angry/frustrated/hurt (let the student name their feelings – don’t make assumptions as this can re-escalate a situation) that violence or aggression is never justified when in this kind of situation. It may also be helpful to open up a discussion, drawings here are really useful, relating to proportionality. One wrong doing was this big, but your response was this big, for example.
Once the student has taken responsibility for their actions, after feeling that their feelings around the issue have been taken seriously, they will be in a position to resolve with another person. It is important that both parties have gone through these stages to ensure full responsibility is taken on both sides.
When facilitating students to get together, both have to be in the right frame of mind and prepared to have a discussion together about what each finds annoying or what upset them in the incident. Let each have a turn and tightly manage this process with confidence. The adults need to step in quickly to remind the students that the feelings were justified on both sides, but the actions were inappropriate and they are now coming together to agree joint strategies; this might just be to give each other space and demonstrate joint respect – we would never force students to be “friends” again, but we can and should expect respect.
If you have any questions about this blog please ask myself or the Student Support Team, this is such an important part of our work at Gretton and if we do this right I can guarantee progress.