Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Anger Management: Indian Giver

Ms. B and I went into our most recent group session knowing it would either go great or go horribly awry. Of course, when a game is called "Out of Control," you're probably asking for trouble playing it with a bunch of emotionally disturbed boys. The purpose of the game is to make the players live by rules they have no control over, and subsequently manage their emotions/feelings. I don't have a link to the game since Ms. B found it in an activity book, but here is the description:

To play "Out of Control," wrap several small age-appropriate prizes in wrapping paper [we had things like a pencil sharpener & pencils, a Goosebumps book, a cool calculator, a mini Lego set, etc]. Get at least as many prizes as they are kids. You will also need a pair of dice. The game will be played in two parts, but only explain the first part. Let the students take turns rolling dice. When a child rolls a double [the game took too long with doubles, we used 6+ as our criteria], he chooses a prize (and does not open it) from the table and places it in front of him. If he does not roll a double, his turn is over. Play until all prizes are claimed.

For the second part, set a timer for 10 minutes [or whatever you choose based on your time limit] and tell the players that in this round, rolling a double will let them take a prize from another person. End the game when the timer goes off. Some kids will have more than one prize and others may have none.
The first round of the game went, understandably, great. Each boy picked a prize that they were happy with. When we began the second round, they were able to control themselves relatively well as their classmates "stole" their presents. The main problem was that there was one prize the boys all wanted (minus A, who was happily switching his prize back and forth with one of the unclaimed ones whenever he rolled 6+... he didn't get it). When the second round ended and the coveted prize was claimed, mild hell broke loose. All the boys were upset they didn't get it, and no one was really happy with the prizes they did end up with, since it wasn't that one. V calmly took the calculator apart and G threw the Goosebumps book. Precious. So, my biggest recommendation if you're going to replicate the game: wrap all the prizes in same size boxes, exactly the same way, so what the prize actually is gets disguised.

Because of the upset after the prizes were taken, we were unable to really process the group. Ideally, we would've asked how the boys felt when their prizes were stolen and they weren't in control, what they did to manage their anger, and if they didn't, what they could've done differently. Instead, we slinked out of the classroom while Mrs. C got the boys back on track.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

"A" is for "Adorable," "N" is for "Neighborly," "S" is for "SA-WEEEET"

(Apologies for the delayed-ness of this entry. I'm still adjusting to life back in the real world after a girls weekend in Folly Beach, SC. It's not fun.)

The above title came from our last session of group. I will elaborate in due time. The purpose of the group was to continue to explore self-esteem, and for the boys to recognize the positive traits that exist in each other (see the "Same Letter, Different Name" activity). The boys were divided into two teams and wrote the names of those on the other team on a sheet of paper. Ms. B chose a letter of the alphabet and the boys had to come up with positive traits or adjectives starting with that letter that described the opposite team members. We set a time limit of 2-minutes for them to work before they read aloud the descriptors. We played for 6 letters--3 for each team.

The boys were surprisingly creative in coming up with their positive traits! Some had an easier time than others. V had lots of great ideas and needed very little coaching from Ms. B and I to come up with good words. W needed a lot more help, since he mostly just made up words that kind of resembled good adjectives. The boys really nailed each other in terms of appropriate descriptors for each kid: A was described as "artistic" and "sensitive," V was "hyper" and "adorable," B was "neighborly" and "smart," and W was "athletic" and "silly." One of my biggest happy moments was A actually participating with W, with support and coaching. Although his social skills are super delayed, he independently thanked B after he read one round of positive traits.

As we processed the group, we talked a lot about what it means to receive a compliment and how we feel both giving and receiving them. We discussed good manners and social skills, including saying "thank you" when someone does or says something nice. I could tell that the boys genuinely enjoyed hearing good things about themselves--and who doesn't? For all their emotional and behavioral deficits, these boys seriously can warm some hearts.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Not Acceptable

(Warning for language in the video)

While I have previously posted regarding my thoughts on the use of "mental retardation" in the educational system, I in no way endorse it's casual use as a derogatory term intended to demean people. This video sums up why the "r-word" is totally not acceptable.

Plus, who doesn't love Jane Lynch?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It's a type-athon!

I was supposed to have yet ANOTHER training today, but instead the psychologists were given a reprieve and allowed to return to their building to complete evaluations and reports. I'm not completely sure how this could be considered a reprieve on what is a day off for students, but I'm not going to complain when I get a day to myself to work on all my paperwork. Nerd alert! So, I am using today to finish the MOUNTAIN of reports that I need to type. I snuck into my building this morning and told the office staff that I am "not here" today, hoping that I would be left alone to do my work (so far, so good). Get ready for the TYPE-ATHON!!

It is currently two hours into my self-imposed exile in my office, and I have finished two initial evaluation reports for our CSE meeting tomorrow. Of course, my printer has decided NOT to print them (they're just hanging out in the queue... come on out friends, I need to put my John Hancock on you!). I have five more reports I hope to finish today, which will get me to a good place for the meetings scheduled between now and June 1st.

On your mark... get set... TYPE!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Do You Like My Hat?

I've spent 3.5 of the past 6 days in trainings... sitting in a window-less conference room, breathing in 70 other colleagues carbon dioxide, wondering where the "airplane smell" is coming from (are they pumping it through the ducts?) while counting down the minutes til lunchtime. Needless to say, not the most splendid time (though the trainings were informative and useful, for the most part).

Here's a testing tidbit to brighten my (and your) evening. I was giving a kindergartener a perceptual reasoning task last week, and we were on a subtest where she had to match a picture to complete a visual matrix. In plain language, it's like a visual analogy: here's a dog and a doghouse, a fish and... what matches? Anyway, we arrived at an item that had a variety of hats and the kiddo perked up. "Oh, I know this one. It's a pimp hat!" she said, pointing to a wide-brimmed hat.

Game, set, match, young lady. I'll be over here, giggling.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Self-Esteem: Spongebob, Cats, and Money, oh my!

Our third group session focused on self-esteem and pro-social behavior. We did an activity called Gifts from the Heart (scroll down to second heading). We asked each of the boys to think of an imaginary gift they would like to give each of the classmates and to draw a picture of it (each boy would be drawing five pictures). They had to think of their peers' interests, likes, hobbies, etc in order to pick the right gift to give. We wanted them to choose a gift that "fit" that person, so the boys had to put their thinking caps on! They also were encouraged to be imaginative--the gifts could be something as simple as a food they like, or as big as something like a sports team, an amusement park, courage, safety, etc.

A lot of them were concerned with their artistic ability, but we assured them that the gift they chose was more important than how they drew it. A few of the boys had trouble thinking up gifts to give, so we encouraged them to ask their peers what they might like by modelling how they could ask. This was especially difficult for A, the student who has signs of an autistic spectrum disorder. A. did not want to participate in the activity, did not attempt to ask his peers what they might like gifts of and was very put off at the idea of doing so, and instead drew unrelated pictures for myself, Ms. B, his teacher, and his parents (note the lack of age-mate interaction). We did lots of modelling and encouragement, but A wanted nothing to do with the task... can't win them all. (there will be a future blog post coming about A).

Once the boys had finished the Van Gogh action, they took turns presenting their gifts to their classmates and explaining why they were choosing to give that gift. As they gave their gifts, we practiced turn-taking, using good manners (saying  "thank you"), and patience. Some of the gifts were cats, Spongebob, Dragonball Z characters, money, Hot Cheetos (what is the obsession with these?), John Cena (a wrestler), hockey equipment, and art supplies. The boys were surprisingly thoughtful in their gifts, which was really exciting and refreshing, and were excited about the gifts that their classmates gave them. It was a great warm fuzzy activity, which was a much needed break after a relatively B-A-N-A-N-A-S week.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Feelings Jenga: An Excellent Opportunity For a Snit Fit

Ms. B and I had to do some shifting of days and time for group this week, but we conducted our session in the boys' classroom while they ate lunch. Since we knew we'd have limited time and they'd have limited attention due to the tasty school sustenance, we decided to play "Feelings Jenga" and use the opportunity not only to discuss the expression of feelings & emotions, but to practice patience, turn-taking, conversational skills, pro-social interaction, etc. While our Feelings Jenga set is not exactly this one, it's similar.

Everyone in the C's Crew had a chance to remove a Jenga piece from the tower, and if they chose a "feeling" block, read the question aloud for everyone and answer it. Some of the questions in our set were things like, "How do you feel when you make a wise decision?", "Who is your role model and what do you admire about them?", "When you are in a tough situation, how do you deal with it?" and more. We had minimal issues during our first round. We needed to remind the boys to keep their elbows off the table (the tower was  unstable after B got a little daring when removing blocks), to use appropriate voice level (they were understandably excited), and to wait their turn. They frequently tried to help whoever's turn it was by yelling out suggestions and pointing (and in the process shaking the table), which led to some frustration if someone didn't take a suggested piece out of the tower. Ms. B suggested they give "silent prompts" instead, and coached the boys in doing thumbs up or down to help guide their classmates towards "safe" Jenga decisions.

The only hiccup in the operation was W. W is a very reactive child, quick to anger and react, but also typically quick to recover. I'm not entirely sure what upset him, but W refused to participate in the latter half of the group session, but instead wandered the room, crawled under tables, and crumpled up papers to throw at the wall. Ms. B is fantastic because she got up at one point without me even noticing and brought him back to group, while I continued to run the game. Of course, as soon as he sat down, W began trying to kick the table, making the Jenga tower wobble in fear. As soon as W was ready to take his turn, the tower fell, which obviously set him off again.

When group ended, we took W for a walk to help him calm down. W told us he was upset that T cussed at him on the way up to class before group (which happened 30 minutes before so I'm not sure why it was being brought up now when he wasn't bothered by it at the time, but hey, I'm not an 11-year old emotionally disturbed child). We talked about what he could do "next time" and encouraged him to tell us and talk about what's bothering him, especially during group, so that we could talk about it and use it as a teachable moment. He went back into class with little trouble, and had no problems for the rest of the day.

So, all in all, a successful group session today! Of course, literally as soon as Ms. B and I left C's Crew, we had to manage a crisis as we passed by a student having a minor seizure outside the cafeteria. My job? Never boring.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My Tummy Feels Funny (in a good way)

Yesterday I responded to a crisis with S, my very open feeling friend. In between bouts of crocodile tears and screaming, S looked at me and growled, "LEAVE ME ALONE!"

Is it wrong that my insides melted a little inside and I got the funny tummy feeling? I love that kid, even when he's hanging off the door handle trying to kick his feet through the glass alongside the classroom door.