How can schools best cater for the diverse needs of their SEMH children to increase 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.
An individual with a SEMH need might struggle with social skills and developing positive relationships, may be more likely to act impulsively or display low self-esteem. It's important to understand that this kind of special education need is often an on-going process that requires long-term intervention, which can be provided through specialized support programs. For example, one such program could focus on teaching the student techniques for managing their emotions and improving their social skills.
For children with SEMH in mainstream schools, additional support may be provided during the school day by educational institutions or other professionals. This could include one-on-one counseling, peer-mentoring groups or small group work. It’s important to understand that all students have unique needs and it’s imperative to address those and provide appropriate assistance so that they can succeed in a mainstream environment.
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 A child with SEMH needs may be isolated or withdrawn in social and educational settings.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.
Symptoms of an SEMH Need
One of the most common issues is that vulnerable pupils will experience a consistent on-going struggle with their mental health and well-being. This may manifest in the form of anxiety, low moods, self-harm behaviours, disruptive behaviour, anger outbursts or even depression. If these symptoms are observed in a pupil it is important to seek further help and advice as soon as possible.
It is essential to meet with school staff and discuss any potential SEMH needs. During such meetings, it is also important to involve the pupils themselves, as they may have further insight into their own mental state and can provide more details and clarity regarding their experienced issues. Furthermore, this process allows all involved parties to formulate appropriate actions and better understand how to properly help the pupil.
Concern within schools for a pupil's well-being and mental health is more prevalent than ever. Teachers, school staff, parents, and carers must all work together to help ensure that every student is receiving adequate support. Therefore, if any individual shows changes in behavior or attitude that worries school personnel, it's important to recognize these changes even at the slightest measure and take action accordingly.
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.
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.
Emotional and mental health risk factors include a family history of mental health issues, parental substance misuse, family conflict or abuse, poverty and marginalization, being a refugee or having separated from their family at an early age. It is also important to look out for any changes in a child’s behaviour that may suggest the need for SEMH support such as depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, aggression, impulsivity or changes in peer relationships.
- 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)
Effective Strategies for Managing SEMH in the School Setting
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.
One of the most common issues of SEMH is impulsivity. This can include trouble controlling emotions, difficulty concentrating and engaging in risky activities. To help children manage their impulsive behaviours, it is important to teach them problem-solving techniques and help them develop healthy coping skills. Additionally, ensuring they have adequate time for rest and self-care is also important to helping them manage impulsive behaviour.
Schools need to provide a supportive learning environment to ensure students with SEMH needs are able to make the most out of their education. Teachers must have adequate knowledge and training on how to support special educational needs, such as providing advice for school-based strategies that can help manage SEMH issues. This may include simple things like breaking down tasks into smaller steps, or providing frequent breaks for students with SEN who may struggle with long assignments.
Teachers should also focus on outcomes for children with SEMH needs to ensure their learning is successful. This could include setting clear and manageable goals that are appropriate for the child's individual needs, and using positive reinforcement strategies to help them achieve their goals. Through this process, teachers can help children succeed in their studies, regardless of their SEMH requirements.
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 child 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 child.
- 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.
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.
Promoting SEMH: Schoolwide Approaches
When exploring Social, Emotional, and Mental Health (SEMH), we find that the successful management of these elements plays a crucial role in promoting not just effective learning, but an overall healthier school community. Statistics suggest that as many as 10% of students experience mental health difficulties. These can range from emotional difficulties such as anxiety and depression to disorders like attention deficit disorder.
In order to foster a truly inclusive school culture, we must first review school processes. Staff training, awareness programs, and well-defined policies set the groundwork for an environment that values and understands SEMH. It's worth quoting educational psychologist Dan Hughes who said, "Every behaviour is a communication, and when that behaviour is from a child, it's often communicating something about a state of distress".
Gaps in learning often result from avoidant behaviours or emotional barriers. As educators, understanding a child's unique learning style or preference becomes vital to tailor strategies that promote not just academic achievement, but also emotional stability and resilience.
Practically speaking, an SEMH-friendly school can implement activities and programs that promote Skills for Learning. This may include social skill groups to improve peer relationships, mindfulness activities to enhance self-awareness and regulation, as well as consistent positive reinforcement to bolster self-esteem.
Additionally, the creation of a supportive learning environment that encourages open dialogue about emotional wellbeing is a key step towards normalising conversations around mental health. A nurturing school ethos where every child feels safe and understood can indeed pave the way for greater academic achievements and happier learners.
In conclusion, promoting SEMH is not just about policies and guidelines, but about creating a compassionate school culture that recognises, values, and supports each student's unique mental and emotional journey.