Cieran's Story

A pre-schooler's ideas of play disrupt the progress of his peers and himself – until his home life is brought in to the equation.

The Context

Cieran started at Playdays Pre-School with very challenging behaviour. He would come into pre-school agitated and wasn’t able to express his feelings very well. This often resulted in him hitting other children, snatching toys off them and occasionally hurting them. He found maintaining positive relationships with his peers difficult and required a lot of one to one attention from staff. This affected not only his learning, but that of other children.

Having two older brothers, Cieran was used to play-fighting at home. However, when Cieran went to pre-school, he played with other children in the same way, not realising that this boisterousness was not what other children had been used to. Cieran also tended to flit from one activity to another, not really being able to concentrate on one thing at a time. He found it very difficult to wait for his turn or share toys with other children.

The Impact of Achieving Early

Playdays was already engaged with Achievement for All through Achieving Early, and recognised immediately that the 'Taking Time for Talk' conversations (an in-depth approach to developing a partnership with parents) would be of real benefit to Cieran and his parents. During the conversation, it became apparent that Cieran’s dad, Christifer, was unaware of how his son’s behaviour was affecting his learning, and his relationships with other children.

“It came as a surprise to us that Cieran was playing like this at pre-school; we had no idea,” Christifer commented. “We realised that Cieran was very used to playing with older children and was frequently engaged in boisterous play with them. We needed to identify a way to encourage more appropriate behaviour and develop Cieran’s skills in turn taking and sharing.”

Through 'Taking Time for Talk', staff learnt that Cieran loved to play with cars and trains, so these were used as a tool to help Cieran manage his concentration levels and to develop his ability to share and play positively with other children. Less attention was drawn to his inappropriate behaviour, and Cieran was verbally praised for appropriate behaviour with rewards such as stickers and star of the day awards.

 As a result of a very effective partnership between the setting and the family, Cieran’s behaviour has been transformed. Cieran’s concentration, listening skills and attention skills showed significant improvement. Staff also noticed that Cieran became very caring towards the younger children in the pre-school. If a child fell over, he would stop his play, ask if they were alright, and look to give physical comfort.

Jill Gowing, Playdays Pre-School Manager, said: “Cieran has come on leaps and bounds and we are delighted with his progress. The approach we implemented for him has been consistent at home and in pre-school, and he’s responded really well. He soon became much calmer and his behaviour has improved dramatically.

“The 'Taking Time for Talk' meeting really helped Cieran’s key person, Leigh, and his father to focus on how they could work together to help Cieran develop his social skills. He has developed better relationships with other children who now want to play with him. He doesn’t take toys away from them, having learnt a vital life skill of sharing, and expresses his needs verbally, rather than physically. This has not only affected him socially, but educationally as well. His learning is improving and staff can now focus on creating a positive learning environment for all.”

The impact on Cieran’s learning is significant: he has made accelerated progress across all areas of learning and is now at age related expectations. He has shown particular progress in Managing Feelings and Behaviour, Speaking, and Physical Development.

“Cieran looks forward to coming to pre-school and we are delighted with his improved behaviour,” continued Christifer. “He is much calmer at home now as well as at pre-school. The 'Taking Time for Talk' meetings have helped us to find other ways to engage Cieran in games and activities at home which have helped him to develop his skills and play appropriately. All the staff are very approachable and willing to listen to my concerns. It’s fantastic to be able to celebrate this improvement in Cieran’s behaviour.”