The problem: An eight-year-old child in my class has started to self- harm by hitting their head against walls, scratching and punching solid objects to the point at which knuckles are grazed. I have numerous strategies in place but I have exhausted these and it feels as if they are no longer supporting the child. I feel clueless as to my next steps. There are complications that make it very difficult to convey the problem to the parents. This self-harming is distressing not only for the child, but also for the rest of the class and for me

Tom Bennett

What you said

I would recommend keeping a daily log of all concerns and incidents involving this child. Sometimes people outside your classroom can fail to realise the impact on youyour class and having evidence in black and white can hammer it home.


Have you had a formal meeting with the local authority behaviour support service and asked for advice? They should have someone who can observe and advise you.


The expert view

Huge sympathy to you with this situation. It sounds like you're doing a dreadfully difficult job with a very challenging child.

This child's issues sound beyond the capabilities of a classroom teacher alone to solve. At this stage, you need to become a part of the process rather than the sole guardian of the process. You cannot be expected to both teach this class and manage this child's needs.

I would have said that the parents should have been involved at a far earlier stage in the process but, from what you imply, there are complications that preclude this. I take your word that this is the case, as it would be standard procedure to investigate the background to this behaviour and see if there was an integrated school-home solution.

My advice is to refer the case to your line managers, the senior staff and the designated child protection officer in your school. They act as a conduit and liaison between the school, child services, social services and home. They are also trained to get in touch with the right people. This behaviour may be an expression of abuse at home, a cry for attention, a sign of mental illness - or something innocent.

Tom Bennett is author of The Behaviour Guru and Not Quite a Teacher. Post your questions on:

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