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Maslow's hierarchy of needs
Maslow's piramide

Maslow formulated a model to illustrate a hierarchy of needs, whereby higher order aspirations cannot be attained unless the individual's underlying basic needs are intact. So, for example, children will need to have had their care needs met, feel safe, settled, valued and feel that they belong to the class before they are able to engage in social communication or learning.

Understanding early communication
Boy throws a tantrum

Maslow regarded all communication – positive or negative – as an expression of need.

You should consider any voluntary behaviour of a child as potentially communicating something, eg discomfort, being unsure of boundaries, a lack of confidence, feeling unvalued, being unsure how to do something or being frustrated at not being able to achieve an outcome.

The next slide lists some examples of a child's behaviour. In each case, try to infer a possible reason for the behaviour.

Check your interpretations by clicking on the box in the right hand column.

Consider how you would respond to
the child concerned.

Understanding early communication
Child's behaviour Possible reason
Wails persistently
Grunts loudly whilst you are talking with other children
Keeps going to the cupboard and banging on the door
Bangs on a tray when you are sitting in a group
Approaches you and gives you a toy
Brings you your coat
Says 'tatibo' when upset
Says to you 'put your shoes on now'