In the spring, a mother contacted me about her daughter and problems that were occurring at school. The mother was very sad and depressed that often as she picked the child up from school, she would receive negative reports. The mother was very frustrated and didn’t know what to do or how to change things. She would talk with the child and discipline her at home. Mom was losing hope that her child would be successful in school. She wanted advice from me.
I offered to go to the school and observe the child to see what behaviors the child was exhibiting in the classroom. I stayed for over two hours so I could watch structured activities as well as unstructured activities. I noted strengths and areas of concern.
Later as I talked with the mom, I was able to give her some peace of mind. I was able to help her see once again the wonderful child that she loves and the strengths the child possesses. I could tell the mom that from what I observed, her child has a great attention span and is focused on the task at hand. I told her about the child’s interest in books, and how she was one of the only children who went to the book corner to “read” books. I explained though the child needed a few reminders to come to group time, she was one of the first to do so and she waited patiently with her legs crossed for group time to begin. I saw how she would answer questions and knew concepts presented in the lesson. I reported how she had been using materials and another child in the class wanted one of things she was using. The child I was observing reached for another object similar to the one she was using and offered it to the other child – a very good skill. This child had many areas of strength that could be built upon.
Some things I noticed and suggested included: Because of the child’s strong focus and interest – the child could use a warning when activities are about to end. “Five more minutes and it will be group time. One more minute…” When another child in the class wanted the one item she was using – yelling began after she offered the other child a similar item and the other child still persisted on having the item she was using. I explained that we have to acknowledge that the child had this item and was using it. Thank her for offering a similar item. Explain that the other child would like a turn with what she is using. Is there a way to work that out? She needs to hear first that we understand her desire to continue to work with what she was using. We need also to help the other child understand that she has been using this item and wants to continue.
There were many more thoughts and ideas on how things could be done to begin to eliminate the feelings of negativity about the child and begin to see strengths - too many to list here. The important thing is to work from the strengths to overcome weaknesses. Most of all I wanted to give the mom peace of mind. Her child is not “bad”. Her child is not “hopeless”. Her child is a child, learning about the world and how to navigate it. Now is the time to help with that.
This is actually how our York Plan B started – the beginning of advocacy along with a few other incidents with families that made us realize that this is an area that needs to be further explored if we are to help our children be the best they can be. Our hope is to make a difference in the lives of children, and to provide families with some “peace of mind.”