Some children may not have a diagnosis and may ‘get by’ most of the time. How we respond to these children makes a huge difference to the way they see themselves. It can also make a great deal of difference to how successful they will be at school.


The child may show some of these in any combination:
  • Won’t sit still
  • Invades other’s space
  • Very emotional
  • Won’t follow routine or become distressed if routine alters
  • Upset by stories
  • Doesn’t listen
  • Shouts
  • Poor social skills
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor sense of danger
  • Over-reacts
  • Immature behaviours

Social or behavioural theories

  • The child feels insecure and so produces these behaviours.
  • The child has failed to learn the appropriate behaviours.

Motor perceptual understanding

Consider these theories:

The child gets insufficient or unreliable feedback from physical actions or sensations. He has difficulty understanding what’s expected of him in different situations.

How you can react

How you react can affect the outcome for the child and rest of the class.
  • Don’t take it personally.
  • Use consistent rewards.  
  • Use praise and rewards.
  • Set achievable targets.
  • Investigate further.


The child may show some of these in any combination:
  • Clumsiness or messiness
  • Runs but can’t stand still
  • Fidgets
  • Avoids physical games
  • Poor dressing skills
  • Comes into physical contact with others regularly
  • May not feel pain or may over-react to pain
  • Fatigue
  • Poor posture
  • Awkward pen grip
  • Changes hands in tasks
  • Poor at PE
  • Doesn’t have the correct equipment
  • Easily led
  • Needs more space
  • Loud
  • Pushes in

Social or behavioural theories

  • Tiredness – stays up too late
  • Lazy
  • Difficult

Motor perceptual understanding

Consider these theories:
  • The child has to use a great deal of thought and energy just staying upright or coping with the crowd.
  • He is unable to control fine movements.
  • Staying still requires more tiny muscle adjustments than moving quickly.

How you can react

  • Don’t draw attention to the difficulty.
  • Don’t insist the child completes tasks at home as well as homework.
  • Have realistic expectations of performance and pace.
  • Provide an alternative form of recording.
  • Ensure seating is appropriate.
  • Praise effort not outcome.

Language and comprehension

The child may show some of these in any combination:
  • Poor listening
  • Does not follow instructions
  • Takes everything literally
  • Can’t take teasing
  • Becomes hysterical
  • Blurts out information
  • Poor understanding of time and space
  • Poor memory and retrieval
  • Problems with spelling or word order
  • Problems with word finding
  • Poor copying skills
  • Poor at dictation
  • Can’t tell a joke
  • Immature speech
  • Can’t follow the timetable
  • Panics
  • Gets on in some lessons but is rude or difficult in others
  • Has difficulty predicting the consequences of actions
  • Acts out distress rather than talks about it
  • May seem OK in school but have terrible tantrums at home

Social behavioural theories

  • Is not made to listen at home
  • Immature or ‘spoilt’
  • Difficult
  • attention-seeking

Motor perceptual understanding

Consider these theories:
  • Can hear, but does not always discriminate sounds appropriately
  • Is unable to understand abstract concepts such as time, distance and space
  • Cannot keep pace with dictation because of poor fine motor and poor organisational skills

How you can react

  • Ensure the child gets his instruction first hand from the teacher.
  • Support meaning with objects and pictures.
  • Check that he understands instructions.
  • Give single instructions and more than once.
  • Provide lots of opportunities for success.
  • Recognise this success as contributing to the class.
  • Consider access to technology at an early stage.

Visual and auditory difficulties

The child may show some of these in any combination:
  • Easily distracted by sights and sounds
  • Startles easily or fidgets a lot
  • Aggressive to anyone entering his visual field
  • Forgets the question
  • Interrupted responses
  • Goes off at a tangent
  • Leaves his seat
  • Makes a noise
  • Asks for repeat instructions

Emotional and behavioural theories

  • Not disciplined
  • Didn’t understand the question
  • Attention-seeking

Motor perceptual understanding

Consider these theories:
  • Cannot integrate stimuli
  • Cannot screen out unnecessary stimuli
  • Thrown off balance by this sight or that sound
  • Needs help to get back on track
  • Needs to have distractions lowered
  • Needs a screened environment

How you can react

  • Offer more time to absorb information.
  • Support new or difficult information with clear aids such as objects or pictures.
  • Expect to have to repeat instructions or recall him to task.

Children may start off having difficulties purely because of a motor or perceptual problem. Some unhelpful responses may become a habit with certain staff, lessons or situations.

Understanding the underlying cause will not, of itself, make any difference to the behaviours but it will allow you to re-think how to deal with the situation.

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