Q I have a Year 1 pupil who has real difficulties when it comes to working with clay or paint. He also dislikes activities that involve getting dirty, such as seed planting or measuring distances, and he has started to refuse to go out of doors. Recently, I have noticed him rubbing his hands and picking fluff from his jumper.
He has always been a fussy child, but he used to be much happier. What is the matter and what can I do to help him?
A The obsessive behaviours he displays can give clues to features of his personality and circumstances. These might help you to assist him in regaining some control over his life and help him learn better - but you can't tackle this alone. You need to talk to the psychological service and to his parents.
Parents are usually relieved if a teacher has picked up worrying signs and expresses concern. They can often feel isolated, at a loss as to what caused the problems and what to do about them. As partners with professionals, parents share the responsibility of implementing any strategies that have been decided upon to help their son. Consistency of approach between school and home is vitally important.
Finding out why the child is acting as he does is part of the psychologist's job. Your role is to offer observations of the boy's behaviour and learning patterns, and whatever knowledge you have of the family.
Also bear in mind the possible effects that temporary turbulence in families can have, such as the birth of a sibling or the death of a grandparent. Look within your own classroom - is the work too demanding and causing stress or is it starving the child of intellectual challenge?