Sunday, November 4, 2012

Progressive Muscle Relaxation? Relax THIS, Lady!

My fourth first grade emotions/anger management group session was marred by the insanity that is November 1st. On this fateful day, the kiddos came to school all tweaked out on candy from Halloween the night before, ready to cause armageddon and other gleeful shenanigans. Enter 50 Shades of Cray.

Group was scheduled for 2:30pm, a nice way to end up the school day before dismissal starts at 3:10. Around 1:00pm, Miss R came down in a tizzy because one of the boys was throwing an Uber Tantrum and she needed help. Mr. S, my mental health counselor colleague, and I strapped on our sneakers and took off (and by sneakers, I mean high heels. Please, you know I didn't have no sneakers on :) ). There we found N, red-faced, scream-crying, face down on the floor, spitting, swimming like Ryan Lochte, only the hands and feet were for punching/kicking/scratching, not winning gold medals. He was not responding to Miss R, the classroom aide, or either of us, and the other students had been removed by the speech therapist, because N had partially destroyed the room.

Mr. S and I held N's hands and feet gently to keep him from hurting himself or one of us, and tried to calm him down, but N was having none of it. Mr. S was getting scratched on his wrists, I was getting kicked (by feet with no shoes or socks... I smelled like sweaty little boy feet for the rest of the day), and it was unproductive. It was one of those situations where you felt totally helpless, because nothing was working to help the kiddo. Mr. S recommended I call the district's crisis team, because this was more than just a tantrum. In the end, the crisis team recommended I call our school resource officer, who came quickly to assist Mr. S, and N's mom eventually came to take him home. We were pooped.

By the time 2:30 rolled around for group, I was worried that N's behavior had set the other 3 boys off and it wasn't going to be a productive session. I was told that it was fine to come up, so I settled myself on the rug with D, G, and J and we got down to business on the topic of "relaxation" (irony). Immediately, I knew that it was going to be a wash--they were much squirmier than normal, D and J kept posturing like they were going to punch each other, and where they normally respond to positive redirection and praising, it wasn't working. What an awesome day to try and do relaxation techniques!

J had to be removed to take a "cool down" walk, so with D and G we were able to discuss why it's important to calm down when you're upset, and ways to do so. With some teeth-pulling, we were able to get a good list (watch TV, sit by yourself, put your head down, go for a walk, deep breathing, counting backwards, etc). We also practiced some of the techniques where appropriate, like the deep breathing technique I call "Soup Breathing." Students visualize a bowl of their favorite soup in front of them, which is too hot to eat. They're excited to eat it, so they take a big sniff of how good it smells ("in through the nose"), then blow on it to cool it down ("out through the mouth").

I settled the boys into their tables and crossed my mental fingers that the progressive muscle relaxation activity I planned would be somewhat productive. It took a while to settle the boys down, but we were able to get through a few of the scripts with little trouble. J joined us halfway through and was able to participate appropriately. I used the script found here, with some minor modifications to the introduction and conclusion to shorten them. I also didn't do all the scripts, only "hands and arms," "arms and shoulders," "jaw," and "legs and feet." I liked the script because of the visualization, and while the kids got a little silly, they did exactly as instructed.

Once the muscle relaxation was over and I tried to process and get them talking about the activity, the squirminess was back. D and J were right back at each other, instigating a fight and getting in each other's faces. D went to hide under a table and J yelled and tried to push a chair at him. I went to try and calm J down, but for some reason, he had forgotten all the cool techniques he had just learned! With time and help from Miss R, the boys got settled back into their dismissal routine and I was able to skeddadle. Phew.

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