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EBD Philosophy: a Thumbnail Sketch
By Michel Plemmons· Saturday, October 3, 2009

(disclaimer – a, this is a quick sketch, and b, about a third of kids with Emotional/Behavioral Disorders are *not* victims of the scenario I sketch below but struck by disease.)

When an abusive parent or high risk environment a child can’t choose leads to a broken arm, we feel for the child, and everyone will voice how horrible it is that this was done to the child.

When an abusive parent or high risk environment a child can’t choose leads to a broken mind or emotions, we feel unsafe for ourselves and our children, and everyone will voice how horrible it is that this child has done whatever is a manifestation of that damage.

Why is it that only the minority of us see the contradiction? Sure, I lock up the scissors in my classroom. But, heaven help me, my kids need HELP more than someone else continuing the messages that broke them in the first place!!

IMO: Appropriate use of Time-Out and Restraint

by Michel Plemmons on Saturday, December 19, 2009 at 1:46pm
Here’s how I’ve always used time-out rooms: The kid controls the inside of the room: light on or off, me in view or out of view (but of course there, assuring safety and health), and can say or do anything w/o getting in trouble – unless it results in actual damage to the kid or the room (and if the room’s designed right, the kid can’t hurt the room and would have difficulty hurting him/herself). Who controls the door depends on who controls the kid right then – if the kid is in control of her/himself, able to show response to verbal instructions (ie where to sit, or to give a thumbs-up), then the kid is in control of the door. The kid decides whether s/he wants it open or closed as soon as the kid is safe. We don’t barge in without the kid’s ok. Most kids are genuinely back in control if they can show 5 min of sitting in one spot. I’ve known a couple that needed 10 before they were really back to being safe.If a kid sends her/himself to time out, that is a positive choice – like when we go to the bathroom, or outside, or “remember something” to get from somewhere else. That choice is praised and rewarded in the token economy. The kid just demonstrated an excellent coping skill, after all! Being there isn’t the part that’s trouble!

If a kid loses control of him/herself and becomes a safety risk to self or others, and cannot regain control when warned, then the alternatives for keeping that kid and others safe become to either make the place the kid is safe (remove all unsafe items and other people – but the room may still be overstimulating) or make the kid safe.

(RESTRAINT) I have found that it is unrealistic to expect someone to calm down when they are up close and personal with the person they’re mad at for restraining them. My data shows clearly that a kid calms much faster if you instead take the kid to a safe place where s/he has some control and choice, and make sure the culture is that the kid is only in trouble for being unsafe, not for going to the safe place. In my last classroom we called the time out area Australia (“I’m having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. I think I’ll go to Australia.”).

In my current room, in a high school, I don’t tend to need a door to hold against someone who’s completely lost control – I just need a nook where the kid can hide from everything. I have three of them in my classroom, desks with visual barriers (file cabinets) that feel safe and defensible and are low stimulus. I won’t bug a kid who puts out a stopsign or goes to one of those areas. If they go sleep or refuse to work, they have safely expressed that they’re opting out of working right then. They lose points, and still have the assignment waiting for them. Would I rather show them that safe communication isn’t sufficient? Force them to act out unsafely? Who do I really serve if I do?

These are my two cents, for now. We must always think of the implications of our words and deeds – including the internal language that then colors the voice tone and facial expression when we say appropriate, professional words that we undermine and invalidate by the other 85% of our communication…


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