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‘Pupils who can’t ask for or do not like to be helped’ – reaching the “unreachable children”

‘Pupils who can’t ask for or do not like to be helped’
By Emma Day, Professional Studies Lecturer
If attachment theory were applied to the above statement, these children would be considered ‘avoidant’.  These children are sensitive to interaction and at times this triggers uncertainty which can affect a child’s ability to learn.
Erickson et al state that children in this attachment group can be socially isolated and/or disconnected. This is problematic for a teacher who would like to work with a child in order to support their learning.
1) Consider the task – children with avoidant attachment will often direct anger towards the task if it is too challenging.  This will increase their need for support which they will refuse in favour of working alone.  Children can become angry as they feel stuck in the circle of not being able to do the task but not wanting help.  A well pitched task will allow the children to work autonomously which will support building the relationship with the teacher as they feel safe.
2) Include a peer in the support.  This can lessen the intensity and proximity of the teacher which may allow the child to accept support more readily.  Consider using other children as peer support which can be scaffolded by the teacher.  This will enable to learning environment to feel more safe and therefore enhance your relationship with the child.
3) Have structure to your lesson.  Ensure the task is clear and all resources are accessible.  This will enable the child to feel supported and reduce the fear of ‘not knowing’.
4) As teachers we are generally skilled in differentiation.  Allowing children to choose their level of work supports this group of children.  This strategy allows an element of choice and therefore control.  It demonstrates that you have thought about children’s needs.  It also helps children feel ‘held in mind’ – which was likely absent in infancy.
5) . Use the curriculum.  There are many opportunities in our curriculum to work symbolically to explore difficult feelings.  Many stories have metaphors which are useful to explore in the classroom eg: houses, castles, journeys.  ‘Looking in’ at these characters can help with emotional literacy and allow children to begin to explore and explain their own feelings in a safe space.  This will support children who are sensitive to feelings and relationships.