When students push, give them a hug.
The first day I met Jon, he entered my class followed by one of the school’s many Crisis Interventions. After exchanging some words, it appeared that Jon had not followed an instruction that he was given. The Crisis Interventionist was clearly angry, and Jon was clearly not. And most obvious to me was that Jon was in control of the entire situation. He made the situation go the way he wanted. I respected him for that. I saw the leader in him. I also saw the challenge of fostering the POSITIVE leader in him.
Over the next few months, Jon and I fostered a strong relationship. He was a positive leader in our classroom community. I made sure to allow him to always feel safe and in control when he could be. But then, one day, everything changed. He walked into class, told me he hated me, and then, proceeded to do everything in his power to show me how much he hated me.
Jon had been diagnosed with something called Reactive Attachment Disorder or RAD, as it’s known.
RAD is a condition characterized by markedly disturbed and developmentally inappropriate ways of relating socially in most contexts
When a baby is repeatedly comforted and cared for, an attachment forms with the caregivers. Baby’s who have their needs met learn to love and trust others, develop healthy relationships, regulate emotional responses to situations, be aware of others’ emotions and needs, and have a positive self-image.
On the other hand, when a baby experiences abuse and neglect at the hands of caregivers, attachments do not form. Failure to establish these expected bonds negatively impacts children, leading to possible depression, irritability, and mistrust and/or fear of trusting adults or peers.
Repeated abuse and neglect can leave children at-risk for RAD.
The signs and symptoms of RAD include the following…
-Failure to reach out when picked up or interest in peek-a-boo
-Unexplained withdrawal, fear, sadness or irritability
-Sad and listless appearance
-Not seeking comfort or showing no response when comfort is given
-Failure to smile
-Watching others closely but not engaging in social interaction
-Failing to ask for support or assistance
But RAD is a rare disorder. The majority of children who experience repeated abuse and neglect, including those that have been bounced around to multiple caregivers and experienced abuse and neglect with each, do not develop RAD.
Wait! What?! How is it rare when I can think of at least 3 students in my classroom that exhibit these symptoms?!
Modern-day students make this disorder feel like the norm, right?!
Some of our students have been hurt and let down by adults in the past. When something happens to someone over and over, it becomes an expected behavior. So instead of being let down by another adult who you have started to care about, why not push them away? Isn't that easier? Then, that adult can't hurt you. That adult can let you down like all of the others have.
Not only did Jon state in front of the whole class how much he hated me, he also continued to tell them why he hated me, including my stupidity and ugly appearance in his tirade. He refused to participate in morning meeting, getting two others to follow his choice after explaining how boring morning meeting is. During reading, he broke the picture of my puppy on my desk and twenty minutes later, threw a chair at me. And at the end of the day, I told him that I didn’t know what I had done to upset him, but I couldn’t change unless he told me. I also told him that I cared for him, I didn’t like to see him this upset, and tomorrow is a new day!
The next day he came in and quietly observed the class for the day, never once speaking to me.
At the end of the day, I told him that I was happy to see that he seemed less angry, but I missed the old Jon. Tomorrow would be a new day.
After that, Jon acted as if those two days never happened. He did push again at times, but never so intensely.
Trauma leaves an impact. No matter the trauma, a person’s brain is essentially altered in terms of thinking, emotional regulation, and response to fears.
So when a student pushes you away, don't let them. Instead, let them know that you are not like the other adults who have let them down in the past. Let them know that you are not going anywhere. They aren't going to be able to push you away - just give it up, kid
When students push, give them a hug.
By: Miss Rae
Hi! I'm Miss Rae! I'm a Special Education Coordinator with a passion for creating research-based resources for DiVeRSe learners and helping teachers make their lives easier! #teacherrealtalk #missraesroom