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Early years: Difficulties participating and presenting as withdrawn or isolated

Strategies and approaches:

  • Understand the function of the behaviour before implementing strategies – try to identify why the child is displaying behaviours before planning how to support them. 
  • Make sure all adults are aware of their reactions to the observed behaviour and ensure a consistent response.
  • Consider or ask what may make that child feel more at ease/safe? Provide a feelings/calm area with resources such as blankets, soft toys, sensory/fidget items, offer some time outside?
  • Support the child to develop the skills to self-regulate their feelings. Ensure all adults understand and support children in this.
  • Revise your school/setting behaviour management policy to ensure it focusses on supporting children’s social and emotional development including supporting self-regulation.
  • Observe play interests along with finding out what the child likes to play with at home, use these to plan interesting activities to support all areas of learning in the setting.
  • Mirror the child’s interests and comment on what he/she is doing/looking at instead of attempting to interact/communicate where this upsets the child to show you appreciate them.
  • Be calm and sensitive, take the pressure off by limiting the number of questions
  • Use assessment through play– e.g. are there parts of the EYFS/areas of learning, learning environment and routines that they find easier to manage than others? Use these to develop confidence.
  • Analyse all observations made to identify the child’s needs and how to support them. Plan specific observations if needed.
  • Discuss with colleagues and your SENCO, check if there are staff members who seem to get a more positive response. Understand the strategies that they are using and support others to replicate these.
  • Differentiate tasks to ensure that all children experience success in the learning environment.
  • Ensure all staff recognise that promoting prosocial behaviour is an effective strategy to support behaviour expectations.
  • Try small group work e.g. friendship or social skills, nurture groups.
  • Give the child responsibility for looking after someone else.
  • Use buddying /peer mentoring. Enable the child to take on both roles enabling them to receive support from a peer and providing support to a peer.
  • Try activities and experiences which provide the child with a sense of belonging or importance to the group.


East Sussex County Council: explaining therapeutic thinking

Early Years In Mind – Withdrawn Behaviour

Self-Regulation in the early years


Self-Regulation in early years

Keep Your Cool Toolbox

Last updated 2 November 2021

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