Supporting behaviour that challenges

When your child is being disruptive in school, this can be very difficult for everyone involved. The most important thing is to continue to work with school, sharing ideas and deciding next steps.

Disruptive behaviour can be a symptom of something else going on, for example a child may be having some difficulty in lessons, either with the work they are doing or perhaps they have some sensory needs and their surroundings are causing them to feel anxious. If you think there may be underlying needs, discuss and explore with school how these might be identified and supported.

It might be that there is something else your child is worried about or being affected by at the moment for example, bullying, a family split, or bereavement. Share this information with school so that you can work together to find a way to support them.

It can be useful to think about who you contact at their school. School staff have different roles and you might want to change who you speak to or meet with as your child’s needs emerge or change. For example, to start with you may have spoken with someone in a behaviour management role and now find you want to talk to the SENCO to discuss next steps with assessing and planning support for your child.

You may find it helpful to look at your school’s ‘SEN Information Report’, which should explain how the school identifies and supports pupils with SEN:

What is a SEN Information Report?

What can I do as a parent?

Ask your child what’s working well, what they are finding difficult about lessons or school, and what they would like to change – this can help identify specific triggers and worries. Your child’s views should always be the starting point of any discussion about support. 

Some things to consider:

  • Check the school website to view their SEN policy, Behaviour policy and SEN Information Report. 
  • Share any background information with school, ie. issues that might be affecting behaviour or where you are exploring or have received a diagnosis from a health practitioner.
  • Discuss with school if you believe your child needs help in lessons, to manage their feelings or with friendships/relationships.
  • Look for patterns or triggers for behaviour, for example, are the instances always in a particular lesson or time of the day?
  • Strategies such as a time-out card, planned lesson breaks or short-term working in smaller break-out spaces can have a positive impact to behaviour.
  • Identifying key members of staff and reassuring your child about who they can speak to with any worries, can be helpful to reduce anxieties.
  • Think about and discuss with school the behaviour targets set, breaking these down to bite-sized achievable targets (such as getting through a lesson without incident) can be a good way to manage. This could help to break the cycle of challenging behaviour.
  • Create opportunities for praise which are achievable – finding a way to praise even the smallest of things can have a positive effect.
  • A reduced/part-time timetable for a short-term period can be effective where other options have been exhausted but can only be implemented with parental consent, and should be reviewed regularly to ensure your child returns to a full-time education as soon as possible.
  • Where there is an EHC plan in place, you could request an early review (or reassessment of needs).
  • It can be helpful to discuss alternative support options where exclusion is not providing an effective sanction.

Don’t wait for the next incident or suspension!

You can ask to meet with school to review support, share ideas and discuss possible next steps.  With your consent, school might consider one or more of these referral options:

For the full range of support services available to children and young people with SEND go to:

And further behaviour support resources on the Local Offer website go to:

Behaviour Support Resources

Related information

SEN Support (the term used to describe the process for identifying and supporting a child or young person with SEN)

Working with school (equal partners working together to find ways to support a child)

Suffolk Support Services (specialist services and programmes which support Suffolk schools)

School anxiety (disruptive behaviour can be a symptom of anxiety)

School exclusion (sanctions a Head Teacher can use when a school’s behaviour policy is breached)

Equality and inclusion (information about adjustments for children and young people with disabilities or medical conditions)

Did you know?

We offer advice and support to young people directly and can help them to share their views and get involved in discussions about their support, read our service leaflets:

Service leaflet for young people (PDF)

Service postcard for children and young people (PDF)