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Behaviour incentive chart in reception - your thoughts please

(24 Posts)
tanfastic Tue 06-Nov-12 19:51:48

Evening ladies. I've posted before about my 4 year old ds and the behaviour problems we've had with him. We have an appointment next week to see the GP regarding a referral for an assessment as we think he may have some kind of ASD.

His behaviour is 80% good but when he has an outburst it's horrendous. His anxiety builds up and he lashes out.

His teacher describes him as a Jekyll and Hyde and has pointed out that since starting in September he has had two major outbursts in the classroom that they've had problems dealing with and that in her opinion these outbursts were not normal. She has said that if he hits a teacher or another pupil he will be excluded as she has a duty of care to the other pupils and teachers etc. Fair enough.

At school they have a behaviour incentive chart on the wall consisting of a rocket traffic light system where all the children start at the top of the rocket at the beginning of the day and then go down the rocket through green, amber and red according to their behaviour. The teacher has said to us at parents' evening that when she puts him on the red he completely "loses it".

Since day 1 my DS has most days been somewhere on this rocket, hardly ever at the top, mostly on green or amber, sometimes on red. When all the parents come in the classroom to collect the children, there he is for all to see down the bloody rocket. Today was the first day back at school and he was the only one down the chart. All the other children were at the top of the rocket.

What I would like to know is is this normal for all the parents to be able to see how your child behaves during the day? My son's anxiety is already at maximum at seeing his face on the rocket every single day but i'm worried that other parents are going to be judging him and also judging my parenting skills and he won't get invited to parties etc. Is it normal for this information to be available to sixty other parents?

I can see the parents automatically looking at the rocket when they walk into the classroom to collect their children to see if their DS/DD has been naughty that day and i'm sure they must be thinking what a shit mine is.

Inaflap Tue 06-Nov-12 19:55:36

I think this is devisive and poor practice as it is available for everyone to see. Many schools do have this raffic light system but generally amber and reds are not made public. If he gets the diagnosis then this could be discriminatory.

tanfastic Tue 06-Nov-12 19:56:31

Just thought i'd add his behaviour is 80% good at home but obviously not at school but I think that is because we know how to deal with his outbursts.

StarlightMcKenzie Tue 06-Nov-12 20:16:29

'The teacher has said to us at parents' evening that when she puts him on the red he completely "loses it'

So why does she put him on red ffs?

And why don't they all start on red and try and get to green, rather than the other way round.

Ineedalife Tue 06-Nov-12 20:22:54

Seems a daft system to me starting at the top and working downwardshmm

surely it would be better to start at the bottom and earn rewards by moving up the rocketconfused

Rewards should not be taken away but this seems like taking away from the children to me.

Is this a whole school scheme pr one the teacher has made up/
If it is made up I would ask for your Ds to be taken off it as it obviously isnt working for him and is setting himup to failsad

Good lucksmile

tanfastic Tue 06-Nov-12 20:37:46

When he first started school I raised this with the teacher. She said it's something they "have to do" and that I wasn't to take too much notice of it. My DH explained to the school at he believed my son's anxiety levels rocketed by seeing his face on the amber/red and that he didn't feel it would work for him but she wasn't having any of it.

My Ds's second outburst was because the teacher asked him to come to her to have a word and he refused, she then proceeded to ask him again that he come to her to have a word (he'd obviously done something wrong). He again refused to budge. (cue his anxiety levels rising as he thinks he's going to get told off). She then put him straight onto the red and it was then that he completely flipped out and had to be taken out of the classroom. Personally I wouldn't have dealt with it that way at home, I would go to him and take him to one side for a quiet word but that is just how I deal with it. I feel that situation could have been avoided.

I don't disagree with the behaviour board per se, but what I do disagree with is having my son's face on display at picking up time for all the parents to see. Surely it wouldn't take much to clear the board at 3.10 pm?

EllenJaneisstillnotmyname Tue 06-Nov-12 20:42:24

We had something similar in the reception class I used to work in, except it was a sun, cloud and star. Each child started on the smiley sunshine and could move up to the star or down to the cloud, and the social pressure of being on the cloud was its own punishment. It was always possible to move back off the cloud by the end of the day, time spent in the cloud was always short. It worked well for NT DC, even those with moderate behavioural difficulties.

But for a child with more than moderate behavioural difficulties or one immune to social praise/peer pressure eg with ASD, or very anxious it could be counterproductive. DC with difficulties above and beyond NT DC need a reward based programme, not a sanction based one. This rocket chart appears to be entirely sanction based. Where are the incentives to behave well? Too much stick, not enough carrot!

AgnesDiPesto Tue 06-Nov-12 20:45:21

No its not normal they should reward the positive - but negatives should be private.
My DS (ASD) gets very upset by criticism - which is what being on red is - its a good sign in a way that he does care about getting it wrong
I would refuse for my child to be on the chart and say he should have his own chart which is private to him and should be based on positive rewards
My son has his own individualised plan and is rewarded far more frequently than the other children because he finds everything much harder.
The rewards are ones he is motivated by eg time on the computer
Rewards are tangible and much more instant - not at the end of the day eg may be every 10 mins for situations he finds hard
Perhaps one chance a day is beyond your DS? He may need lots of chances to succeed - and also if he does behave badly a chance to redeem himself rather than the whole day be a write off
Its a stupid system as if a child is on red by say 9.30 where is the motivation to behave for the rest of the day?
Reward systems only work if a child can actually succeed regularly, feel good about it so they want to succeed again.

I would ask school:
1. To keep data on his meltdowns and the triggers and agree to meet again in two weeks to discuss this so an individual behaviour plan can be agreed to work across school and home
2. Whether they intend to get / put in support eg 1:1, small group work, behaviour support or whether the teacher has training and time to address your son's behaviour needs herself.
3. Whether excluding him for behaviour which is potentially linked to asd is fair when they are not apparently putting in any individualised support / interventions to address his behaviour
4. Given that they have already identified some triggers e.g. the rocket / negative feedback what intervention they intend to put in place to develop his tolerance to criticism / feedback? Otherwise they are just punishing him for something he does not have the skills to deal with.
5. Whether the rocket is not self defeating as its actually causing anxiety and making his behaviour worse?
6. Tell them you are not happy with his behaviour difficulties being publicised to other children and parents

Look at this guidance and don't feel afraid to ask what early intervention the school is putting in place to stop your child being at risk of exclusion. The paragraph about policies which increase the chance of exclusion may also be relevant if they insist on using a system which makes him 'lose it'.

You should not feel defensive about your child's behaviour. Put the ball firmly back in their court as a SEN (diagnosis or no diagnosis) which is their job to deal with when he is in their care.

tanfastic Tue 06-Nov-12 20:49:35

I think there are incentives for staying at the top of the rocket I think but i'm not sure what they are, golden time was mentioned but I don't know what that is. My DS says to me every day that he will try very hard but I seriously think he can't help it. He's not a naughty child. He doesn't set out every day to be on amber or red, he is mortified when he goes on there and gets himself in a right state.

As I say i'm not against this kind of behaviour chart per se, i'm just irritated that every single parent can see my child's face on amber today and the rest of the class at the top of the rocket. My DS's friend's dad even commented that he was on it again (in a humorous way so I wasn't offended as I know him) but if he's noticed then all the other parents must have and will be forming an opinion of DS.

StarlightMcKenzie Tue 06-Nov-12 20:52:39

Children with ASD who have had no specialist education often don't understand to come when a teacher calls. They can often be totally unaware the teacher is talking to them, and if they figure out freeze at not understanding what that might mean or whether it is safe.

To then be punished for breaking a social rule they didn't understand is barbaric IMO and paves the path for future mental health issues.

moondog Tue 06-Nov-12 21:24:09

An extremely poor and downright unethical use of behavioural principles.
What a fool.

inappropriatelyemployed Tue 06-Nov-12 21:30:44

All schools seem to use these charts or something similar.

DS's teacher put him on the 'sad face' the other day. We were sat in a meeting with the EP and she explained how she had just put him on the sad face because he would not stop writing when asked.

She said he usually does but didn't after several requests and that this was not something he had ever done before.

So I asked if she was sure he had heard her as if he usually follows this request, it would seem strange for him to refuse.

She said - 'I don't know' hmm. Thank God the EP was there to back me up!

DS hates public expressions of critiicism too.

tanfastic Tue 06-Nov-12 21:50:10

Thanks for the replies. Dh is going to speak to the school tomorrow just so something is put on record and to try and get them to work with us in helping him not get excluded as at the minute they seem to be putting fuel on the fire or rather the teacher is.

auntevil Tue 06-Nov-12 23:15:45

Personally I would ask the teacher if either it could be cleared before parents arrive, or moved to a position where it can"t be seen by parents. Having said that, if the kids in the class are anything like mine, they will have already told their parents before they leave the gate who was on 'time out' that day sad
Why not also suggest a reward system to run in tangent that can be tailored specifically. Work out what are typical flash points for the 20% ? time. reward for say 5 flash points per day with a sticker on a personalised chart (whatever his favourite things are dinosaur chart etc - preferably that he helps to make). When he gets and agreed amount (and an achievable amount) of stickers, he gets a reward - computer time, choosing a story, whatever he would value highly at school.
It may help, or may not, but it is much more positive than sanctions. It also means that if he tries hard not to react at certain flash points, he gets a sticker (working toward a pleasurable activity for him)- and he doesn't get to move on the rocket.

tanfastic Wed 07-Nov-12 08:16:55

What I have an objection to is the teachers effectively sharing this information with other parents. They might as well have invited them all to listen in to our parents evening meeting. If the children decide to share the information with their parents is different.

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Wed 07-Nov-12 08:58:26

I can understand your feelings with regard to other parents potentially judging you as a parent or DS as a 'naughty' child but I think you need to recognise that you are the best advocate for DS and ask yourself about how this must be for him. Your DS is young (your only?) and it is much easier to see these things with hindsight and with a diagnosis. DS2 (6) has Golden Time in his school and I have expressly forbidden the teachers to punish (lose Golden Time) because of behaviour that he may not be able to control. He is currently being assessed and in the meantime they cannot assume that he is NT as this can have profound consequences.

I cannot be fobbed off as DS1 did not have school phobia at age 4/5 but developed it as a result of punishment, for years, for behaviour that he could not control leading to school transfer and failed transition from primary to secondary. He is currently 'signed off' and at home.

Your DS is being assessed and so should not be treated as if he were NT. These techniques may work for NT kids but they do not work for ASD kids. The action of the school (and for ASD kids a sad face can be a trigger for a meltdown) is causing an extreme anxiety reaction that the school is then punishing. This has to stop immediately - your son has just started school and this has been a terrible introduction.

tanfastic Wed 07-Nov-12 09:21:35

Yes I agree. We've tried behaviour charts at home and they don't work, it actually seems to make him worse.

I'm more than a bit pissed off that when i've dropped him off this morning he's still there on Amber, the only one out of the class. So any parents that never had an opportunity to see him yesterday will be able to see him today. Why not clear the board at 3.10!? It's that simple. We never get an explanation of why they are down the board anyway, if I ask ds he says he. Doesn't know. He probably already feels shit about himself being the only one out of a class of thirty, then he has the embarrassment of sixty odd parents scouring the board every day to see if their child is in there.

Dh is going to ring the school today. I'll update later but thanks for all
Your replies, it helps a lot smile

AgnesDiPesto Wed 07-Nov-12 09:46:54

Golden time i think is time - sometimes at the end of the week - where they get free choice eg computer time
My DS (ASD) is nearly 6 and he works for 10-15 mins then gets a reward - we started at about 1 second when he was 3 so that it is great progress
Your DS may not even understand what he does at 9am affects what happens at 3pm or even at the end of the week.
The school have money for sen to spend on children like yours - in our school they must put in up to 20 hours 1:1 so the school is not doing the right thing here by putting the blame on you / your child.
Children with autism are very distractible, don't know to tune into the teacher's voice rather than the buzz of the lights, or the wind outside, its hard to get their attention - the teacher could try giving him individual instructions, but even that may be too hard for him if she does not know how to get his attention first.

tanfastic Wed 07-Nov-12 09:55:47

Just to update. Dh has spoken to the school who were very defensive but did say they could see his point about other parents being able to see the chart. She said yesterday he was on Amber because he knocked over another pupil's building blocks and then refused to build it again. They then said he'd go down the rocket if he didn't build it to which he went into complete meltdown.

They've said that other parents like to see where their children are on the rocket so that's why it's public and so she would need to speak to the teacher to see what they could come up with, his own behaviour chart was mentioned which I think would be one way of resolving it.

Dh explained that the rocket is causing him extreme anxiety to the point he's having nightmares about it (he woke up crying the other night as he'd dreamt he'd gone down the rocket).

Dh said she was inferring that they were having to "start from scratch" with ds and discipline which really fucks me off as they
Might as well say we are bad parents. We are not and we discipline him as best we can. We do tend to pick
Our battles to avoid tha violent tantrums and this has worked brilliantly. However when dh mentioned this they didn't seem to think that was the right approach and probably think we just let him get away with murder (which we don't).

He said he got off the phone feeling like one of those parents who is defending their child and doesn't want them
To behave and be punished angry

They have a special needs co ordinator who is going to take a look at him and dh is going to speak to his teacher tonight face to face.

Ineedalife Wed 07-Nov-12 11:20:56

Hi Tan, I may have misunderstood but was he not back at the top this morning?

If he wasnt then they are not even following their own procedures.

Every child should go back to the start at the beginning of a new day, he should not be having to start off lower than everyone else because of something that happened yesterday.

I would be very angry if that happened to my child.

Also If other parents want to see their child's rocket, fine let them but you do not want other parents to see your child's therefore it should be taken away.

It not rocket science blush

tanfastic Wed 07-Nov-12 11:25:19

grin rocket science.

Yes he was still on amber but I tend to think this is because they had forgotten to move him back up before school started as they normally do.

Ineedalife Wed 07-Nov-12 11:31:36

I hope so but it really isnt the point. How must he have felt to go in and see that he is still on ambersad

It really isnt good enough and the CT needs to get her act together. She should either use properly or not at all.

When you go in I would mention that this is damaging his self esteem and causing nightmares.

They are supposed to meet each child's individual needs and this chart clearly isnt supporting your DS.

AgnesDiPesto Wed 07-Nov-12 11:47:23

Maybe your DH could ask if she has ever worked with a child with or suspected to have autism before as discipline techniques used for typically children tend not to work. I think involving the Senco is a good idea as you need to get a handle as to whether it is just this one teacher who appears completely ignorant about autism / behaviour or whether its a whole school problem.

he could also ask what help / advice / support they can access eg outreach, training etc

I would suggest they assess what his ability to follow instructions actually is, especially in situations he may find difficult and then base a behaviour plan based on his current ability and the appropriate next step for him - not assuming that he can follow an instruction a typically developing 4-5 year old can eg if he does not comply regularly with adult instructions at all then expecting him to rebuild a tower is not a reasonable expectation. They would need to build compliance in 1:1 doing something he does not mind doing / likes to do and then build up to following instructions in a whole class situation doing something he does not want to do (rebuild a tower while being told off). Its all about hierarchy - what will he comply with? Preferred activities, less preferred - and for who - and in what situations. They need to figure all that out first rather than assuming he can follow their instructions in a big group in a stressful situation to start with. It has taken 3 years and counting to get my DS to move from following a simple 1 step instruction in 1:1 to following group instructions in a classroom and we are still not there yet.

Also if it is autism remember children do not just have autism, they are also usually delayed so it may be the teacher needs to think of your son as a 2-3 year old, not a 4-5 year old

And feel free to tell them autism is not caused by bad parenting!

Ineedalife Wed 07-Nov-12 12:03:05

Well said agnes

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