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PollyCarp PollyCarp is offline
 
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Suicidal Student
Old 03-16-2017, 08:30 PM
 
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Warning: this is long.

So I have a suicidal student . . . I teach second grade.

He comes from a rough home background but *seems* to be in a safe spot now. He has very low self-esteem and is very emotional. This whole year he's not taken criticism well (a simple, you have earned a consequence for tipping your chair could send him into a tailspin, he describes it as "melting"). He went from quiet and sad to self-harming in November. Scratching himself so deeply it left marks, trying to strangle himself with his coat or a jumprope at PE.

So I took the proper steps. Called home. Notified the school counselor and the principals, made sure all the specialists were aware of what to look for. He's in counseling outside of school as well.

It got better.

Then just yesterday it completely escalated. (The trigger? I told him we were calling home for behavior, an ordinary consequence I have given him and others before.) I gave him a consequence and he started running around the classroom, hissing and making animals noises, actively trying to get away from me. It terrified my other kiddos. He tried to pull heavy furniture (desk, shelves, coatracks) down on himself. I had to call and have him removed from my room. He went to the office and drew pictures of himself dead and himself in a trash can.

Today it happened again. I told him we had to call home. Less running and frenetic behavior, but continual banging his head forcefully against my metal desk. That was six hours ago and I can still hear that BONG, BONG, BONG sound and my whole stomach twists.

Counselor and the associate admin are taking this seriously. The main admin is more concerned that the office called home and I didn't make first contact with the family. (I wasn't sure what to say, and also since saying I would call home triggered it both times, I wasn't sure it was safe for him if I did.) Anyway, the counselor and associate admin, together with family, should be enough of a support network as my main admin is pretty laissez-faire.

We made a plan for two check-ins a day and established that in the future, I should call the office ASAP and then make contact home once he's been removed and my class is calm.

I'm at a loss for what to do or how to handle this with my other kids who have seen this happen twice now and are worried. (I didn't mask my worry as well as I should have, though I used the appropriate words to address and move past the situation.) I'm also not sure how to distance myself from the situation to be quite honest.

Any thoughts from afar?


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suicidal student
Old 03-17-2017, 04:47 PM
 
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This behavior is abnormal. You say he's in counseling outside of school, but it sounds like he needs actual therapy rather than simply counseling.

Your plan sounds fine, but that doesn't take away from how scary and unpredictable it all is. Has he ever been evaluated for SPED for emotional disturbance? I would doubt it since he's only in 2nd grade, but his reactions to normal situations are extreme. You could start by consulting with the district's school psychologist and/or behaviorist to get some strategies. If those don't work after a few months, then SPED assessment for emotional disturbance may be appropriate.

Also, does he have an outside diagnosis? Is he on medication?
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Old 03-17-2017, 05:04 PM
 
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To my knowledge he has not been evaluated for SPED. The extreme behavior I described happened 2 days only this year. That's 2 days too many, obviously, but I don't think I have enough data to get the team to evaluate. I'm going to ramp up my data collection & documentation on his behavior.

Typically, his behavior has been about a grade level behind (i.e. makes sense for first grade) with occasional self-harming behaviors that are less dangerous (scratching himself or poking himself with a pencil).

I don't know if he has an outside diagnosis, but the school counselor and I are seeing clear signs of depression/anxiety. We have conferences shortly and I will bring that up to see if that ball can get rolling (or if it has started rolling).

Kiddo is dealing with a highly traumatic past . . . his current guardian is discovering new information after each counseling session.
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Old 03-17-2017, 06:41 PM
 
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That sounds hard for everyone involved! The kid is traumatized, the guardians are struggling at home I'm sure (and it makes me wonder what happened with the parents because there's a guardian now), you are obviously worried, and I cannot imagine how his classmates are feeling.

Remember to take care of yourself through all of this emotional turmoil!
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Old 04-04-2017, 08:02 PM
 
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I'm super later to this thread-- do you have any update about this child? How are things going right now?


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Update
Old 04-05-2017, 07:02 AM
 
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Hi GraceKrispy, thanks for asking . . . things seem to be going better.

TL;DR - Things are going better, identified some causes, instituted new plans. For a lengthy update, see below.

After the horrible day where I posted this, I noticed that the suicidal or self-harming behavior seemed deliberately attention-seeking. That is not to minimize the real emotional health issues my little bug is facing. But by his actions it was clear that at least some of the behavior (before he worked himself into a frenzy, at least) was specifically aimed towards getting reactions. So I started addressing the behavior like any attention-seeking behavior rather than like I usually address self-harming/suicidal behavior. (I should note this child sees the school counselor on the daily and also receives outside counseling.)

We streamlined communication between school and home so that there could be a follow-up at home, and noticed a difference.

We also identified triggers and when he was about to go off so that we could distract him. It turns out that if he got out of the classroom (and lost his audience) before he went into a frenzy he was able to calm himself down. So we told him that if he felt himself going off, he could go to the next classroom for a quick break. And sometimes I would send him to the classroom for a break.

Finally, this week is our spring break. About a week ago I found out that this kiddo has been thinking that 3rd grade starts right after spring break and was going through severe separation anxiety. So we told him that he had 3 more months left of second grade, that he was coming right back to see me again, and I wrote him five letters for each weekday of spring break.

These incidents have strengthened our school-home communication and we're now focusing on getting him ready for 3rd grade. It appears that despite this recent dive, the kiddo has been improving as far as behavior and emotional health in general, so we're on the up and up.

Of course if anyone has any ideas for prevention come June, that would be just dandy!
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Old 04-05-2017, 04:47 PM
 
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Sounds like you have made some great gains in understanding him and meeting his needs! He's a lucky boy to be in your class. I love the letters you gave him for break!

As far as getting him ready for 3rd grade, don't wait until June! I'd have him visit (maybe with a few other kids-- you could do this as a "class wide" thing also) the 3rd grade teacher. In a case like this, I would definitely make a grade assignment purposefully (talk it over as to who would be best for him) and help them form a relationship that starts now so he is very familiar with his new teacher come next year. It sounds lie the unexpected is really difficult for him, so you want to set him up for success as much as possible. If you know of any ways you could align your teaching with the 3rd grade teacher to help the transition, you could do them. Not to say you should change your teaching style, but if there are little things his future teacher will do that you can help prepare him for, that might be helpful. If there are any programs he might be able to join in the summer, let parents know about those resources.

As far as attention-getting, try overloading him on attention at other times. Give him lots of positive attention *before* he starts any attention-seeking behaviors. You may already be doing this, but make sure to give him lots of attention so he doesn't need to seek it out at other times. You could also give him "attention cards" or "escape cards." For attention cards, when he wants you to sit with him and help him or talk to him or whatever, he can give you a card and get 5 uninterrupted minutes with you. Escape cards (call them break cards) are cards he can use to leave the classroom to get his break. By giving him cards instead of just letting him know he can go, he's able to tangibly see progress with not needing as many after time, and you can also allow him special rewards for any cards he has left at the end of a day. If you find he needs to leave the classroom 6 times currently throughout the day, you give him 6 cards. He turns in the ones not used at the end of the day for his reward. Eventually, you can give him just 5 cards and so on. Of course you need to teach the use of the cards and set ground rules (e.g., can't use cards during whole-group instruction time).

Good luck- keep us updated
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Thank you!
Old 04-06-2017, 02:23 PM
 
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Thanks for all the great tips! I'll be sure to refer back as I can tell this will require some creativity and shake-up.

Later this month we are meeting for class placement and as soon as that's finalized I will be seeing what I can do to get him acquainted with Ms. Third Grade.

Again, thanks!
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The rest of the class
Old 04-06-2017, 02:31 PM
 
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Even if they seem fine, they have suffered a trauma as well. Last year we had an emotionally disturbed child placed in our class for a short time, and our school counselor met with them (without him in the room) to discuss their feelings. Even though they seemed ok, they admitted they were scared of getting hurt, angry that he hurt them when they didn't do anything to him, and very confused why he did the things they did. Please take care of yourself, and make sure the others get the attention they need to work through this situation, as well.
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Old 04-08-2017, 12:51 PM
 
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Good additional thoughts from Munchkins!


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