History is important. We all understand the impact of the past on the present. Decisions taken today are directly impacted by those made in previous years. Experience allows us to develop and progress. We build arguments for the future based on what we know has happened before. And we like to tell others about this  – we leave reviews, we tell stories. We are more likely to share bad experiences than good ones because we are social creatures who want to protect others  – its why bad news sells. And we all have our own history that directly impacts how we view the world.

Our frame of reference or our window on the world is how we process everything around us. Visual input, auditory input…all sensory information runs through a complex algorithm inside our brains that decides how useful the information is, whether it is threatening, desirable, comforting….This algorithm is informed by our experience and informs everything we do. This means that we view each other through the prism of our experience. Every aspect that makes us different provides a different perspective on which to view another’s actions. We might judge others actions based on what we know of our world, not theirs. We might hypothesise how we would behave differently in the same situation and that others should see these same solutions as we can. But that is not the case. We can try to put ourselves in others shoes to view their experience and understand their responses, but we are still putting ourselves with all our skills and experiences in those shoes. We cannot fully detach from that but that doesn’t mean there isn’t benefit from trying to do so.

In this way acknowledging we haven’t got another’s full picture allows us to remain curious to contributing factors or causes behind behaviour. But what we do know can help us to consider what might be going on. The child’s history can tell us what they might fear or enjoy or avoid or seek. It can tell us what strategies and responses work and what definitely doesn’t work.

What makes a child get to crisis point will be influenced by their experiences. What they do when they get to crisis will be based on how they have learned to keep themselves safe. Their thought processes following crisis may further engrain a negative narrative they have of themselves, their perception of their history as seen through their eyes. As staff we try to help children to see the things we see and help them to move away from any negative opinions they have of themselves based on what has happened to them. Catching escalations before they reach crisis can help to a child to put positive examples of success in their history. Capturing the good things a child does and praising them for these can help to move them away from defining themselves by a few negative moments in their history. In this way, we have a role in helping create the history of the future, the moments they will look back at it in a year or mores time and see themselves totally different way. And further to this, using positive relationships with a child to understand the impact of the past and document what works can help the next adult have the history they will need to support the child best.

But its not just about those moments in crisis. Understanding the childs current position in their learning journey allows you to develop curriculums that are correctly pitched and sequenced. This is particularly important when we consider functional assessment – what does the child need to learn to help them to meet the need in a more useful / less harmful way? How will we use language? What diagnosis are in place?

Whilst it is important that we try to understand a child’s experiences we must, like the child, be careful not to focus too much on who they once were. We’ve all made decisions we may regret at a much younger age. I can recall a student I worked with who took a blade to school in her bag aged 6 and whose school friends still reminded her of it in Year 8. I can also recall beginning a restorative conversation with two 15 year olds that started with one recalling a story from when they were both 7 years old. By building positive relationships with the young people we work with that are informed by but not defined by their history, we can allow them to develop in our presence in a new direction. We can allow them to create a completely new positive impression of them on an adult that is detached from the views others may hold. Through this we can prove the person they want to be is appreciated by adults and their company is enjoyed. We can also allow them to bring us into their past through their own retelling of their experiences. This is something that can be very powerful for them and should be, by default their right.

So to summarise….why is it important to understand the history of an individual?
– whether nature or nuture, what has happened to them has contributed to who they are today and skills they inherently possess will be present in their past conduct

-Understanding a history can allow strategies and responses to be more informed

-Being aware of our own experience based bias can help us to not prejudge anothers conduct and instead allow us to be curious as to causes and contributing factors

-A child’s history may inform the view they have of themselves – good or bad. We can use our relationship to frame their narrative to hinge on more positive events.

-Teaching of skills relies on knowledge of the past – where are they starting from? Where do they need to go next?