Name the emotion and acknowledge the child's feelings

In her regular column for Education Today on SEND, DR ASHA PATEL, CEO of education not-for-profit Innovating Minds, this month looks at the growing use of emotion coaching in schools.

Emotion coaching. You may have heard of it, but do you know what it is and how you can use it effectively in your school? There are always children who struggle to contain their feelings. They

may have meltdowns, swear, sulk or behave in a violent manner. That is what we see and hear. It makes us react in different ways, perhaps shouting back, threatening sanctions, being sarcastic or dismissive. But there is an alternative approach which has proved to be more effective. Body language, facial expressions, gesture and tone of voice are how

we communicate our inner feelings to the outside world. The central nervous system is made up of both the brain and the spinal cord so what goes on in our heads affects our bodies too. This is why when people think they are in danger their muscles tense, their voices get louder and hoarser, and they seem to be physically larger and more threatening.

Step 1 Start with yourself. You need to recognise the child's feelings and your own emotions. Just pausing for a minute before engaging with the student can help. If you are in a place of distress you may need to regulate your own emotional state before you offer support or seek assistance from a colleague.

Step 2 Acknowledging and naming the child's feelings has been shown to help young people re-engage their 'thinking brain'. If someone is refusing to do their work and appears sad, we would say 'I wonder if you are feeling sad?’, whereas 'What’s wrong?' suggests they are at fault and that we find their emotions unacceptable. Language is important.

Step 3 This is where we find out about the emotions that are driving the behaviour and where possible put boundaries in place: ' I understand you are feeling angry but hurting somebody is not the right thing to do.'

Step 4 The central plank in Emotion Coaching is to build skills and strategies so children learn to self-regulate their feelings. This is not about suppressing their emotions but recognising what the triggers are such as hurtful comments by others and other factors that might affect them such as lack of sleep. It is also about finding alternative ways of expressing and working through their feelings and safe spaces where they can punch, shout, kick and give vent to their emotions without risking harm.

We always do step 1 and 2, but you may decide that it is not

appropriate to do step 3 and 4. Emotion Coaching can lead to policies where children signal when

they need time and support to re-regulate themselves. Educational programmes can also advise students on the functions of emotions and how to use healthy coping strategies to manage distress. Research has shown that children who have learnt how to control

their impulses via Emotion Coaching are more motivated, happier, more resilient and make better progress at school. It is a much healthier option than zero tolerance and isolation booths.

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January 2020

Including siblings in the SEND

conversation This month, CLARE KASSA, Chief Executive of the charity Sibs, talks about the importance of acknowledging siblings of disabled children.

Siblings of children with SEND are often an invisible but large vulnerable group within the school population. Many siblings have emotional needs that are overlooked because of the needs of their brother or sister. Siblings have more worries and responsibilities than their peers, receive less parental attention, are at risk of bullying and face many challenges in their home lives. They are also more likely to have problems with their own educational progress in school, struggling to complete homework and get enough sleep. Policy and practice around the needs of siblings of

disabled children to date have been within the disabled children and young carers’ agendas. But the needs of siblings also need a place within the mainstream children’s agenda, especially education. The focus on siblings as young carers misses the vitally important fact that many siblings do not provide care yet still have fewer choices and opportunities than their peers and experience problems with their wellbeing and education. Whilst every sibling has the potential to become a young carer during their childhood, care is just one of the many barriers to wellbeing and learning that siblings face. So why are siblings an important element of the SEND

conversation? Many families of disabled children would struggle to cope without their support. More than 50 per cent of the hidden young carers in England are sibling young carers. They look after brothers and sisters who are disabled or who have special educational needs, serious illnesses or medical conditions or mental illness. For example, Katy, who is nine, gets the pump ready for her brother’s tube feed before she gets her own breakfast – few adults who would want that responsibility. Siblings often also care for their parents practically and emotionally when the impact of care takes its toll. They also provide friendship and fun for brothers and sisters who may have limited external support networks. Here at Sibs we are still hearing about siblings being taken

out of lessons to help support a brother or sister with communication or behaviour problems. Siblings are relied upon to fill in gaps like these – but they have their own needs and rights too. Some schools run sibling groups and we have recently

developed Sibs Talk a one-to-one support intervention for pupils in Key Stage 2 who are growing up with a brother or sister with SEND. Sibs Talk has been evaluated by the University of Warwick indicating that the intervention may have contributed to positive outcomes for pupils who took part. As well as helping with the difficulties, good support helps

to affirm the many positives of the sibling relationship and family life for siblings. Siblings are acutely aware of the challenges their families face. Schools can support them by acknowledging the important role they play in the lives of children with SEND and their parents and carers. 19

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