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‘They just get it’: the power of substitute attachment relationships in school


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CELCIS Education Conference workshop: Adoption UK’s ‘Attachment Ambassadors’ Project supports schools to build positive relationships with vulnerable children.

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‘They just get it’: the power of substitute attachment relationships in school

  1. 1. The Attachment Ambassadors Project “They just get it” The power of substitute attachment relationships in school.
  2. 2. The Attachment Ambassadors Project Why? • To help children with attachment issues have a better experience of school • Help them to feel safe, supported and ready to learn • Support teachers and school staff to build positive relationships with troubled children • Create a legacy of ‘Attachment-Aware’ schools • Relationships are Everything!
  3. 3. Relationships are Everything… “If relationships are where things developmental can go wrong, then relationships are where they are most likely to be put right.” David Howe Emeritus Professor of Social Work, University of East Anglia
  4. 4. The Attachment Ambassadors Project What? • Research • Attachment Ambassadors – a ‘go-to’ person • Attachment training and induction • Tailored/individual planning for each child • Ongoing support for teachers and staff • Schools’ membership of Adoption UK • A legacy of attachment-aware schools
  5. 5. Developmental Trauma “Exposure to early adversity and trauma literally affects the structure and function of children’s developing brains.” Dr. Nadine Burke Harris
  6. 6. Why abuse and neglect are harmful
  7. 7. Developmental Trauma “There is considerable evidence for changes in brain function in association with child abuse and neglect... Hyper arousal, aggressive responses, dissociative reactions, difficulties with aspects of executive functions and educational underachievement thus begin to be better understood.” Dr D Glaser, Consultant Paediatric Psychiatrist, Great Ormond Street Hospital
  8. 8. Attachment Relationships Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered. “Yes Piglet?” “Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.” •
  9. 9. Key Adult Theory Neuroscientists now tell us that in the presence of a ‘good enough’ other – for example a foster carer, an adoptive parent, a therapist, a mentor, a teaching assistant – that new and more sophisticated neural pathways can be formed in the child’s developing brain, and new patterns of relating and behaving can emerge. So we need to adapt our practice in our schools as a result of these findings” Louise Michelle Bomber, Inside I’m Hurting
  10. 10. Groupwork 1. Share your own experiences of supportive teachers who ‘went the extra mile’. 2. What qualities do you think it takes to be a substitute attachment figure in school? 3. What barriers can you see to the development of such relationships, in either primary or secondary settings? 4. What practical steps can be taken to overcome these barriers and ensure supportive relationships are facilitated for troubled children?
  11. 11. Relationships & Resilience “In the busy-ness of our schools, we sometimes fail to remember our shared humanity and the fact that people actually affect us. Lack of relationship can hinder us and good, stable relationship can help us to grow…. For those who have been wounded or rejected in a relationship in their past, attention to this kind of detail can be significant. We need to respect the importance of continuity in relationships the child values, as this is a significant factor in promoting resilience.” Gilligan (2001)
  12. 12. The Power of Relationships “The more healthy relationships a child has, the more likely he will be to recover from trauma and thrive. Relationships are the agents of change”. Bruce Perry MD PhD, Consultant Paediatric Psychiatrist