Saturday, February 21, 2009

Communicate The Way You Know How

We've been having some trouble with Joey. This isn't a huge surprise- spring is here, the weather is all over the place, the light is changing, the world takes a shift for Joey- his sensory needs tend to shift about now, he tends to be trying to process things more and have a harder time with processing about now. The frustration level goes up. Behavior- like any child- also goes a little haywire.

OUr latest campaign is teaching Joey to use words to tell us how he is feeling. The idea is to teach him instead of showing us his feelings by screaming, hitting, slamming doors repeatedly, tracking, and other behavioral ways, he should use words to communicate his feelings. We've been encouraging him to understand different relationships and the roles of people in his life, and how his words can be used to communicate his needs to these people. We've let him know we want to know how he feels, and he can always use his words to tell us how he feels. Instead of fidgeting with things on the teacher's desk, he should say, "I am uncomfortable. I am frustrated. I need a break."

Sounds good, doesn't it? Except you never know what a child hears. How is Joey interpreting what we are telling him, trying to teach him?

Joey got sent to Ms. T this week. The reason? An accumulation of behaviors that was becoming increasingly disruptive. Use of rude words (such as his favorite, "wiener"), putting marks on other children's charts towards "timeout", giving teachers checks, saying other children are responsible for his behaviors, and other inappropriate outbursts. This is very worrisome, as we are trying to keep him in inclusion settings, and these kinds of loud, inappropriate behaviors can get him sent back to self-contained environments. Fortunately, our school personnel- especially Joey's teachers- have been very understanding and willing to try to help him. However, a trip to Ms. T is a bit of a trauma. Joey gets upset when his classmates get sent to Ms. T, so to find himself in her office... well, he's a bit upset. Besides, Ms. T tends to raise her voice, so we've gotten a lot of shouting this weekend (and lots of "Ms. T is loud!")

How to help him? What is going on? What has happened to get Joey so out-of-sorts? Where is my Deerstalker and pipe?

My mom had an absolute brainstorm of brilliance. She's good like that. What if he has taken what we are teaching him- use words to express feelings- absolutely to heart? Instead of lashing out, he is saying words that, to him, express his feelings? After all, that is how Joey uses language- he attaches feelings and meanings to words and phrases, and uses them to convey those feelings and meanings, even when the words have nothing to do with the moment. What if he is using this tool of words to "give himself a break"- to get out of an uncomfortable situation?

We keep urging him to communicate, and to use words to communicate. Perhaps he has generalized that lesson in his own way?


Trish said...

I think this is absolutely true and happens often. When kids are learning to use their words, we first have to encourage and welcome their efforts. Shaping what they say will follow later.

I would definitely share your insights with the school. If they have been taking data on his behaviors, it would be interesting to see if they have gone down. They may not have noticed that since they are focusing on his outbursts/words now.

Casdok said...

All behaviour is for a reason. As you say you have to be like a detective to try and work it out!
Your mum could certainly be on to something.

Club 166 said...

Most Excellent!

I think your mom is onto something here.

Now you just have to convince him to save those words for when he gets home. :)


kristi said...

"wiener" is mild compared to what TC says! Hope Joey gets it figured out, it is hard some days, I know.