SEMH: A teacher's guide

Paul Main

How can schools best cater for the diverse needs of their children to guarantee access to the curriculum?

What is SEMH?

Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) is considered a type of special education need. The term "SEMH" can be replaced by the term "Behavioural Emotional Social Development (BESD) or Emotional Social Development (EBD)". People use language to communicate and express their feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Pupils with SEMH needs, use behaviour responses as alternative communication way. They usually have difficulties expressing and managing their feelings and behaviours. A special school, mainstream school and independent school will all have an anxious child they are concerned about. Regardless of the education setting, all schools should be concerned with mental health in children. What can school colleagues do in an educational setting to improve these individual situations? In this article, we will explore how emotional well-being needs to be catered for in order to deliver a suitable education for the child.

In some situations, they may show inappropriate responses or disruptive and disturbing behaviour. A child with SEMH needs may be isolated or withdrawn in social and educational settings. To avoid an adverse situation, we must consider whether there is an underlying situation such as an attachment disorder or anxiety disorder. Having a deep understanding of the childs needs enables us to be proactive in a challenging situation. Education access is dependent on us meeting these needs.

Children with SEMH needs are not misbehaving and there is usually a need behind their behaviour. Therefore, the child may be isolated or withdrawn in social and educational settings.


Symptoms of a SEMH Need

Many indicators can be used as a "red flag" to alert parents and teachers to a child's SEMH issues and demands. Here are some indicators:

  • Emotional Anxiety: This can lead to self-harm, feeling worried or distressed, or eating disorder issues.
  • They may struggle to maintain control over their actions and be fearful of interfering with others.
  • Difficulty forming and maintaining friendships: The SEMH child is having difficulty communicating with others.
  • Conflict with peers and adults: As previously stated, a child with SEMH may struggle to express their feelings and thoughts, and as a result, they may fight with others more frequently.
  • Bullying: It is thought to be a curable sign that this student is being bullied and neglected by others.
  • Withdrawal and avoidant behaviours: they may be afraid to hear negative comments from others or be rejected, so they may try to avoid interacting with others.
  • Physical Symptoms: Many students with SEMH may feel ill for unknown medical reasons. For example, when they are anxious, they feel a stomach ache, but there is no medical cause for it.

SEMH school pathway
SEMH school pathway

Risk Factors for SEMH Needs:

There are numerous risk factors that influence a child's SEMH requirement. The child, the child's family, the educational environment, and the community all have an impact on SEMH.

  • In a child, genetic influences, learning difficulties or a low IQ, developmental delays, communication difficulties, physical illnesses, underachievement academically, physical illness, and low self-esteem are all factors to consider.
  • In a family: parental conflict, all types of abuse (sexual, physical, verbal), violence, family breakdown (including if the child is adopted), absence and inconsistent discipline, being unable to adapt to the child's changing needs (moving from the stage of childhood to teenagers), being neglected, parental criminality, alcoholism or personality disorder, death and loss, parental illness.
  • In School: bullying, discrimination, absence or lack of friendships, being abused by peers, poor relationships between the pupil and the teacher or school staff, being influenced by deviant behaviours (behaviour that breaks the social rules and norms)
  • In Community: socioeconomic disadvantages (e.g., lack of income, lack of medical care), disasters and wars, homelessness, accidents, various life events, sexual and gender abuse, online abuse, extremism (strong attachment to political or religious views)

SEMH Leadership in schools
SEMH Leadership in schools

Support SEMH Needs:

SEMH is becoming a well-known and important issue for children's well-being. It's critical to figure out how to assist the child in overcoming SEMH issues. Here are a few pointers to consider:

  • Build up a trustful relationship with the child, communicate with the child, let the child feel loved and supported.
  • Set clear and equitable boundaries for the youngster. If the child is strolling around during task time or during a family gathering, for example, make an agreement with the child to sit for 10 minutes and work on an activity before going for a walk. Make sure the boundaries you've set are appropriate for his requirements. Setting boundaries for the youngster in an environment where he or she is uncomfortable is not sensible. Make an assessment of the situation.
  • Assist the child to recognise their own challenges and give them ways to develop these challenges. Let's imagine the child has expressed a desire to make friends, but everyone is too far away from him. Work with the child and teach him or her how to form positive social ties.
  • Make a new beginning for the day. Allow the child five minutes in the morning to express his or her feelings and thoughts. Discuss the events of the day with the youngster.
  • Always follow through on what you say you'll do. For instance, you and the child agreed that if the child used proper language during the session, you would let the child to play on the swing for 5 minutes. If the session time is up, ask the other instructor or whoever is in charge for permission to take the child to the swing. When a youngster loses faith in a person, he or she is less likely to obey rules or try to change their behaviour.
  • Provide the child with a quiet room or area. Children occasionally require a relaxing environment in which to relieve their stress. Make sure there's plenty of comfy seating (beanbags), dim lighting, soothing music, and mindfulness activities (coloring, breathing exercise, and teaching the child to find a mindfulness activity to control their stress).
  • Physical activities are used in active ways to promote a child's mental health and well-being. The clubs provide opportunities for young people to develop and improve their mental and emotional health. Make mindfulness activities available.
  • Create a worry box in the classroom and allow students to put down their concerns. They then place them in a sealed envelope and write the name of the person they wish to speak with on the envelope.
  • Provide self-help resources to the students. Give the youngster articles, activities, suggestions, books, and recommendations that are appropriate for their age range.
  • Provide staff and parent training programmes, as well as self-help tools, to deal with students' SEMH.
  • To build a specialist provision, provide in-school and out-of-school child support agencies.

Finally, the young person might be influenced by his or her parents and wider family. Examine the child's actions to discover if they are the result of emotional or social stress. Always make an effort to discover more about the child, get closer to him, and figure out how to find him.

SEMH resources
SEMH resources