CHALLENGING CHILD OBSERVATION ASSIGNMENT
For my observation assignment I chose Sam, a four-year-old boy who stays in my class for the aftercare program. I have worked with Sam previously in the camp last summer and became aware of his challenging behavior. For starters, he has a medical condition – he is prone to epilepsy (the cause is unknown). Sam is on medication and his doctors are constantly adjusting it and testing his condition. Sam’s parents asked teachers to be on the lookout for the warning signs of epilepsy. So far we have not witnessed any seizures at school, only the slight eye twitching/rolling or slight muscle jerks on the shoulders. I’ve noticed that this happens when Sam gets tired or overwhelmed by noise, too many choices or being anxious about something. Other than his medical condition (which might have lead to the challenging behavior in the first place), Sam has a number of issues (like impulse control, entering groups, anger management, emotional regulation and empathy) that teachers are currently helping him to work on. Here are some of the situations that I was involved in or witnessed while working with Sam for the past four months.
During the quiet time in the aftercare program, which starts at 1:30pm, Sam loves to play with legos, in particular with lego-people. He usually builds them up and then pulls them apart with gusto, calling them “the bad guys” and saying that he “needs to fight the bad guys”. I asked Sam’s mother about Sam’s fascination with the bad guys and she assured me that he never watches TV and she has no idea where it came from. So every time Sam plays with this lego-people he starts making a lot of noise, throws legos all over the room and ultimately disturbs other children with his actions. The teacher tries to calm Sam down, asking Sam about his lego-people and commenting on how well he built them, offering to help him fix them again, like a surgeon who helps people to recover from an injury. It only makes matters worse: Sam becomes uncontrollable, throwing legos all over the place and bumping into other kids. The only way we were able to change the situation was to announce clean-up time, help Sam pick up legos and take him outside to play.
This is the case when positive reinforcement does not work for Sam to reverse his behavior and creates exactly the opposite effect (Ch. 9, pp.151-153). It could be the fact that Sam does not receive enough positive attention at home and is more comfortable with the negative one. Of course we understand that Sam needs even more encouragement, not less, from adults and through our trust, respect and care for him he will learn to take care of himself. We must believe in Sam’s ability to succeed, to look for what he can do instead of what he can’t do. In order to instill confidence in him, we need to notice and create positive moments with him, so that he feels less anxious when he is behaving appropriately.
Sam stands in the middle of a sand-box, digging a hole when the teacher announces a five minute warning before clean-up. He continues to play in the sand-box, but his game changes into throwing sand around vigorously. Some children complain about it and the teacher stops Sam and redirects him into a more constructive play. Sam follows, but as soon as the teacher calls for clean-up, Sam jumps up and starts pushing the boy next to him. By the time the other children pick up their toys and line up at the door, Sam gets in trouble five times for not listening, not following direction, not helping, destroying somebody’s sand creation and spitting at another child. He is the last one to enter the classroom and the look on his face is tense and angry.
I realized that in order to help Sam, I need to understand what triggers the challenging behavior in him. My observation is that he likes to play both inside and outside, it is transition that bothers him most, no matter how much warning he gets ahead of time (Ch.7, p.115)....
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