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Attainable Targets and Positive Reinforcement

Targets… every school has them, every student is set them and everything seems to be measured by them. However, for students with behavioural issues and ASD, these targets can actually set them up to fail. Why set students, who struggle to pay attention for longer than a lesson, targets so far in future they are almost unattainable? These types of students would benefit from trips out or a reward and yet they are never allowed because they haven’t been able to behave themselves for 39
weeks! Students with additional needs know they won’t be able to achieve this, so what incentive do they have to behave?

This is where attainable targets can help. Set a student a goal (not talking, turning up on time etc) to achieve in an hour, if they can, reward them! Who doesn’t like feeling they have achieved something? These rewards don’t have to be big; 10 minutes free time at the end of a lesson, ‘points’ towards something bigger or if you have a good relationship with the home setting, something they want there. If they still struggle to achieve their goal, reduce the period of time so that they can, but always make the reward comparable with the time. Start with small goals and build the expectation. Once a student feels like they can do, they will always strive to do better.

Students with additional needs (whether that be behavioural or ASD) have been told, shouted, lambasted about everything they have done wrong from a young age, giving them the attention all children crave. This in turn gives them a false idea of how to gain attention from adults, but this can start to be addressed by using something as simple as positive reinforcement. Make it a big deal if they do something they have never done before, like behaving for an hour.

Every parent/carer with a child with additional needs will tell you that when they see the schools phone number pop up, 9/10 times its going to be bad news. Change that. Tell them when their child has done something well and ask them to talk about it at home. Not only will this help the child’s self esteem and good feeling, it can help improve the home setting as well.

Using positive reinforcement and attainable targets create a good foundation, and when used in conjunction with other ideas and plans, can help change behaviours and help a child be successful in school.

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The author

Josh has been a Tutor/Mentor and part of the pastoral team at a special school for the last 6 years. All the students have got EHCP’s with either behavioural issues, ASD or both. All the students have been excluded from mainstream schooling so have a negative impression of school. He is a firm believer in treating all the student as individuals and finding ways in which they can improve and achieve their goals in a style and pace suitable to them.

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