Emergency Services have a systematic approach when searching for missing people linked to behaviour studies. It struck me that there are parallels in how a school system could work when analysing behaviour.
The Search and Rescue initial assessment of a missing person is vital. What follows is consistent with patterns of similar traits in a particular category of people. A ‘misper’ with Alzheimers for instance, means the search party will go in a straight line from the last point that person was seen. The behaviour traits of this type of disappearance means that a person with Alzheimer’s is likely to follow a path and once presented with a gate or hedge will go no further and just stop. It’s especially important in this instance to find out where they were last seen. This is in direct contrast to a person reported missing who is suicidal; here the search team will go to the nearest risk points; infamous cliff points of previous incidents, bridges and so on. A teenager who has not come home is most likely to be on a friend’s sofa so contact with close friends and family will be the first port of call.
In the classroom, awareness of the traits students who have a learning difference or a social and emotional mental health issue may be planned for to minimise incidents. Teachers might argue that their job is to teach, that they are not social workers. I agree, but it stands to reason, a scientific approach to behaviour management and learning for students with SEND or SEMH would be useful.
Attachment issues has recently caused some controversy on Twitter and teachers questioned why they should know about such a seemingly complex mental health problem. I have sympathy with this view but think an awareness of traits with minimal training is useful. Actually for students with attachment difficulties, teachers may be relieved to hear that a firm and consistent approach is recommended. There are traits to be aware of however such as the possibility they may sabotage a seemingly positive relationship or can be prone to manipulating situations and not telling the truth. This is quite different to a student with ASD who tends to be more rule bound despite displaying similar characteristics in other areas of behaviour. Teachers don’t need to judge these students nor necessarily tolerate unwanted actions but an awareness of common behaviour patterns may help deal with a classroom issue.
An over generalisation of the individual based on diagnosis can be problematic and ‘treating the need not the label’ is advisable. We can however, using common patterns in a similar way to a Search and Rescue system, inform behaviour management.
Furthermore, an ability to recognise traits may also help schools to analyse progress and behaviour data. Is there is a rise in LAC students receiving behaviour points for example and would whole school attachment training be useful? Does the behaviour of a student with ASD get worse with cover teachers? This is quite common, but with such knowledge, the school can make reasonable adjustments, perhaps even have a policy for students with ASD and supply teachers to pre-empt any incidents.
Naturally, treating children as individuals is important and there is a danger of treating ‘all’ children with a difference in the same way but this issue is similar to missing people for the emergency services. Knowledge of common behaviour traits in certain groups is a useful tool if used as a starting point.