(Continued from http://minorcelebrity.info/2011/03/why-cant-they-handle-him/)
Two weeks ago we had another eleven-woman meeting. Despite the changes we had made at home and at school (details some other time) Martin’s violence in the classroom had gotten him sent home five times in just the first two weeks of March.
No one seemed eager to take charge of the meeting, so I jumped into the silence: “Last meeting we brainstormed ways of responding to Martin’s behavior. The good news is a lot of it worked. Martin is more expressive now and he’s communicating better every day. The bad news is we didn’t change the pattern of him getting sent home.”
“I know you all are going to keep working on what to do to prevent Martin from hitting people ten and twenty times in a day and, long term, things will get better. However, I think we need to plan for the short term, too. And in the short term, Martin is probably going to hit someone else again. What should we do the next time he does?”
We all agreed that the sending-him-home strategy wasn’t working. The problem was that keeping him in school on days when he went off the deep end taxed resources the school didn’t have. Three out of every four days Martin was spending at least an hour away from his classmates. Often he was spending more than half the day. On his better days this meant being supervised by a teacher in the Sensory Room or an empty classr0om while he did his school work. On very bad days this meant being supervised by the principal for hours at a time.
I was surprised to learned that they weren’t even calling me on all of his very bad days. If the principal could watch him, he would stay with her. They only called me in when she was busy doing her real job.
As we neared the forty minute mark of the meeting, we still hadn’t entertained a single alternative to the status quo. I pressed the issue. I said, “Are there other settings within the school district that might be more appropriate for him?” I was thinking of a class for students with emotional and behavioral disabilities. The director of pupil services dismissed that idea. “I don’t think Martin would be well served in that classroom, though if you insist I’m willing to try it.”
Finally I said, “I have an idea. I expect that it isn’t feasible, but maybe you all can help me tweak it into something we can make work. At home, we have had some success with timeouts. Why don’t we try giving him a timeout every time he kicks or hits anyone? ”
Me: “At home, if he resists, we add minutes.”
Teacher: “He would run away.”
Me: “Add more minutes. I’d say something like, ‘Come back to your chair, Martin. Three is two more minutes. 1…, 2….’ Maybe it should be someone other than you, so you can continue to teach the class.”
We quickly worked out the following details. One of the Pupil Services people would sit outside his classroom for a week. Every time he kicked someone his teacher would have her come in and take Martin to a special room where he would be put in timeout for six minutes. She would add time if he fought it. At the end of the timeout he would return. If things got really bad with his resistance, they would call me and I would help them get him into timeout. But no matter what, he wouldn’t come home.
(This post is part 5 of a 6 post series)