It was such a pleasure sharing with you at KIDabra and thank you for taking you’re time to check out this page.
Please share your thoughts and experience in working with children with challenging behaviour in the comments section at the bottom of this page.
Resources mentioned in the lecture
For step by step instructions on how to make the parcel for danger pass the parcel including where we get our prizes from please click here.
Understanding kids with disabilities
I’m sure you’ve arrived at a gig before now and while you are setting up your kit, before you’ve even said a word, you are thinking… oh dear, here we go. This is going to be a tough one…
I know we have all been there – those one or two, or on a bad day, three, kids that just don’t seem to stay with the process… They are disruptive, non engaging and sometimes plain rude!
Ever thought why this might be or have you just filed it under ‘naughty kids’ or ‘bad parents’?
Well, here is something to think about before you file those difficult individuals next time…
More and more children are being diagnosed with a range of learning, social, behavioural and emotional disabilities than ever before and these kids are more and more likely to be present at the shows you do due to the inclusion agenda that we see across education.
Children with special educational needs (SEN) are highly encouraged to be included in main stream school, particularly primary schools. And therefore they are going to be a guest at the parties you work at.
In this article I will share a little background information about the most common of these disabilities and hopefully give you some guidance on how to go about to bring the best of these kids out.
I have been working in the SEN field for nearly 10 years now and are able to identify the children with additional support needs within 2 minutes of saying ‘hello everybody’. I wish to share my knowledge and experience with you and maybe you will add a ‘SEN’ category in your filing system…
The most recognisable of all learning disabilities is Down syndrome. Due to the physical characteristics of the disability, children with Down syndrome looks different from their friends, with big almond shaped eyes the easiest feature to spot.
I wish to bust some common myths about Down’s syndrome.
‘They are alway very loving and happy’ – don’t be fooled!
People with Down syndrome are as individual and unique as you and I. They are very strong characters in their own right. If you have a child with Down syndrome in your show and they are as good as gold, lucky you! But that is down to their character and has very little to do with their disability. Children with Down’s syndrome have mood swings and strong emotions just like the rest of your audience.
‘They love music’ – no more than all the other kids at the party. And some might have a hearing disability and are not keen on music at all.
‘They won’t understand the show’ – not true at all! I have worked with kids with Down syndrome that could tell you the entire plot of a full stage production.
The thing to remember with kids with Down syndrome is to treat them no different to any of the other guests at the party. I often get them up to assist in my show and they and their friends love it.
This is a slightly harder one to spot. Levels of autism varies immensely, from severe learning disability with difficulty to function in a social or noisy environment to genius children with high functioning ability in a particular area.
I’m sure you’ve seen the mathematic boffins or the genius artists on television. Autism is more of a social disability and in a lot of situations, the child won’t respond or participate in the ‘normal’ fashion.
Asperger’s syndrome also falls under the autistic spectrum. Children with Asperger’s will struggle with social interactions with their peers and in turn, with your show.
Children on the spectrum may enjoy the show, although they may choose to not participate.
Same rule as above, treat them no different, but they might be a bit harder to get to assist.
Behavioural, emotional and social difficulty (BESD) and ADHD
These kids you will probably file under ‘naughty’ or ‘disruptive’ from the first time you meet them.
They are often disruptive and the ones you spend most of your time ‘managing’. Often they will rope a friend or two in and create a disturbance. If possible, try and split them.
This sometimes backfires with them leaving the group to sit with mum, but at least you don’t have the hassle anymore.. A very useful tip is to get their names, and enforce any positive behaviour. Make a big fuss when they do what you want them to do… This does wonders for them as they are attention hungry and will love the sound of their name.
Just be careful to not let them over shadow the birthday child.
PMLD (profound and multiple learning disabilities)
Children with PMLD are less likely to be present at your birthday parties, but you might get approached by a specialist school.
Children with PMLD are most likely wheelchair or buggy bound, can’t communicate with words, may have hearing and or visual impairments and or a severe learning disability. This is a very daunting task for most entertainers… Why? You may think…why do entertainment for these kids? Because they love it!
They are maybe not able to show it like the majority of the kids at your shows, but they do enjoy it. What makes it very hard for us as entertainers is that you get little to no feedback in the form of clapping hands and laughing kids and that is what we feed on, that is what makes us ticks, that affirms that we are doing a good job. The trick with theses shows are that it is not about you, it’s about the kids – it is giving of yourself without expecting anything back, and that fellow entertainers, is true giving.
In closing, last week I did the Christmas party for a family support group for parents and carers of children with disabilities of all diagnoses’… I had a little boy with cerebral palsy which is muscle function is hampered as the impulses from the brain does not get through to the muscles.
Cerebral palsy is vary varied from almost normal ability with a slight spasm or weakness in one limb to severe cases where the individual is wheelchair bound with no control over muscle function.
Cognitive ability is varied as well – I have met many a very bright young kid with CP) and learning disability help with one of the routines (his brother came up with him to support him) and the little guy was screaming with laughter. It was fantastic and all abilities and ages loved the show. Go on, do your shows, involve the kids with disabilities and give of yourself.