Supporting SEMH in the Classroom
Even the most experienced SENCO or Headteacher in the UK would agree that supporting SEMH (Social, Emotional and Mental Health) in the classroom is highly challenging.
This becomes even more challenging when a child has SEMH and ADHD.
In an SEN school, the challenge is often that a class has several children with either of these needs.
In this blog, we look at some of the suggestions made by our SEN teaching staff and network of SENCOs.
Create a Safe Environment
Firstly, focus on and create an environment where the child feels safe. Create this through knowledge of the child’s behaviours and triggers, ensuring that the learning environment, set activities and planned routines do not trigger anxiety.
Reading the child’s diagnosis and SEN notes, as well as talking with the child’s parents/ carer and any previous key workers might be a step in the right direction, arming you with knowledge to ensure a positive start.
Adapt the lesson if needed
Revisit the prepared lesson before you start and ensure you have ideas on how to adapt it if required.
Ensure the task is achievable and can be easily understood, this supports building confidence and enjoyment for the child or young adult. Be prepared to change the difficulty of the lesson, mid-lesson.
Be prepared to deal with incidents as they arrive
Accept your lesson will not always go to plan and be prepared to deal with incidents as they arrive. A learning journal noting any challenges and the potential triggers will support you and other staff with future lesson preparation, ultimately building a centred planning routine based around the needs of the specific child or young adult.
A lesson that has not gone to plan today is not a wasted lesson; It is an opportunity to delve into the potential reasons and adapt for the next session.
A common challenge of successfully delivering lessons to children or young adults with SEMH is being unable to get the learner to sit still.
Teachers report spending a large proportion of the lesson time simply trying to overcome this barrier.
A suggestion would be to allow the movement and where you identify that a child or young adult is distracted by the desire to move, to promote it.
Allowing movement but continuing to deliver the lesson may result in increased concentration and allow the learner to feel more comfortable and relaxed.
Allow short breaks in a calm-down area
Having an agreed calm-down area, or activity, with the child or young adult can be useful. If the learner becomes anxious or agitated, you can allow the learner a short break into this agreed activity or area. If the activity or agreed calm-down area is something the learner enjoys then this can be doubled with a reward system for completing short bursts of learning.
Supporting SEMH in the Classroom is a highly challenging and rewarding job.
If you believe you have what it takes, we want to hear from you! Register your CV on our website here.