The following adolescent case study, with names changed, has kindly been provided by a Learning Mentor, working in a secondary school.
“When Annie first joined the school in Year 9, she was angry and aggressive, often swearing loudly at staff. She found it difficult to attend lessons and it was clear that she trusted no one. Her family background was difficult: she described her mother as ‘alcoholic’, and said that her mother had ‘dumped her’ to go abroad. She had a younger sister who was still abroad with their mother, and Annie was worried about her. It was clear that she felt abandoned by her family and found the whole experience frightening and overwhelming.
“It was really helpful to do a Thrive assessment with Annie in the second week of starting school, as it gave me a clear indication of where to focus in terms of addressing her learning needs. What emerged was that Annie was relying on her survival skills to cope, and was unable to identify or regulate her emotions or meet her needs. She couldn’t show anyone that she was distressed, relying instead on a tough, aggressive manner that kept everyone at bay. She didn’t know how to keep herself safe and had low self-esteem.
“On the basis of this assessment, I was able to create an Action Plan. My priority was to support Annie in developing a trusting relationship with an adult, and to help her feel safe in the school environment. I would meet with her first thing in the morning, and at lunchtimes if she needed to do so, and we also arranged one-to-one time together three times a week. Together we supported Annie’s capacity to trust an adult and to develop her emotional resilience. She learned how to identify when she felt stressed or angry and to develop strategies to calm and soothe herself at such times.
“Over a period of time, Annie’s behaviour has significantly improved and she has developed better relationships with both teachers and peers. She rarely swears at staff now, and has started to make friends. She attends most of her lessons and is able to ask for help when she needs it. The number of behaviour points she has received has dropped progressively from seven in January and six in February to just two this month. She has not been excluded or sent home for a long time and has started to receive achievement awards for her academic work. Whilst she still needs ongoing support through Thrive, she is making huge progress and, for the first time, is really interested in her learning.”