School has started. Time to rein in the 'big' emotions, tantrums, outburst, frustrations. The school year had begun. Ronnie was admitted for mainstream classroom disruption: noises, crawling, screams, crying, sitting under desks, his way or no way. He had run out of his home classroom several times. His parents were called at least eight times to pick him up from school.
When emotions are high, we are tempted to use shortcuts. The child is in distress, "we" rush in. As was the habit for Ronnie, age eight, Pervasive Developmental Disorder. I, like many care givers in psychiatric field, sometimes wish mental disorders came with outward signs (like a broken arm) to ease the anguish and shame of the victim's family and helping eliminate societal stigma. An outward sign would let us offer sympathy and move on with our daily living.
I seated Ronnie (you teachers probably guessed it) next to my continuous complainer who didn't want to do any thing. My hidden agenda was to have them sympathize over life's 'have to dos'. With his verbal flow of knowledge about school, he (a third grader) completely and accurately informed her (a first grader) of upper-grade expectations. It worked like a charm. She didn't want to read at all. She sighed heavily, complaining about the number of pages assigned to her. Ronnie said, "I have to do two stories, one math, three reading worksheets and spelling, so your two pages aren't much." Another heavy sigh of self-pity. She was not about to let anybody "beat her" at her own game, so she orally read her two pages with highly defiant body language. This reading was her first apparent break-through in complying with directives.
For Ronnie's defiant behaviors we watched his shoulders. If he slouched a little my assistant would direct him to another table or to the computer. We kept moving him like a bouncing ball. The first time he did not want to do something I handed his a small, two-inch stuffed 'playroom is fun' T-shirted computer mouse and instructed the mouse in a firm voice to do Ronnie's work. Word got back to me at break that he liked his new teacher, "She was funny and a little weird."
After three kids skipped into the room chiming, "Did you miss me?" Ronnie bellowed bounding into the room, "I know how much you missed me!"
In all this hullabaloo I replied while pointing two fingers, "I missed two, you and you," and then turned toward Ronnie, "and you and you." The three bowled over in know-it-all, "That makes four." I calmly watched as Ronnie put the mouse back on the computer. This was the same Ronnie who had flipped the finger at the nurse and tripped her. Progress!
Kids need the building blocks and a support system for the ups and downs - pot holes of life. These tried and true Coping Skills:
Kaye is a teacher and author of multiple works including Valerie Valentine Visits Vincent Vampire