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Student Constantly Triggered
Old 11-20-2021, 07:59 AM
 
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I want to preface this by stating that I, myself, suffer from an anxiety disorder and PTSD. I take medication and am in treatment for both and have been for years. In other words, I have some small idea of what it feels like to be anxious and what it feels like to be triggered.

This year, I have a student in my class who is constantly triggered. There is no record of this student having experienced trauma or having been previously diagnosed with any disorders.

At the beginning of the year, this student's parent provided me with a list of things their child was scared of, including Veteran's Day, Indigenous Peoples' Day, COVID-19 and war. Not only is this student afraid of these things, they refuse to participate in any activities related to them. Not only do they refuse to participate, they refuse to be present in the classroom during any discussions related to these things.

It might have been manageable if the items on the list were the only things the child was triggered by. Not so.

This student has vetoed lessons/reading comprehension activities on the following topics:
-Pyramids
-UFOs
-Volcanoes
-Climate Change
-Anything with even a passing mention of death
-Vaccines
-Multicultural activities
-Fun Day activities such as watching Candid Camera clips during snack and lunchtimes ("No, we can't do this. I don't like it!!")

This student does not emote. They do not show their feelings - positive or negative. They do not smile, laugh or cry.

They also have started to not do their work at times (even math problems) because they do not "like it."

I have, of course, referred them to counselling services who has recommended that they wear earplugs during lessons.

I am a teacher who likes to incorporate interesting topics and humor into my lessons and with this student, I feel like I have to make my teaching as boring as possible for it to be 'passable.'

I am at my breaking point. I feel like I am being manipulated by a ten-year-old child. I have tried to be accomodating, but at a certain point I feel very bothered that we can't discuss topics that are really important - like Veteran's Day, Indigenous Peoples' Day and multicultural activities.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that other students have clearly noticed what is happening and are put out when I have to stop or modify a lesson because of this student. Now the student's parent is complaining that other students are treating the child differently as a result.



Last edited by TwiceShy; 11-20-2021 at 08:10 AM.. Reason: more details
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Old 11-20-2021, 09:14 AM
 
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Wow! I have NO training or background in mental health issues, but it definitely sounds to me like this student's emotional issues are significantly interfering with the student's learning (and the learning of of classmates). Isn't that the criteria for SpEd with emotional/behavioral disabilities?

I think I would refer the student for evaluation and testing to determine whether special services are needed.

What is the parent doing to help the child? Simply giving the teacher a list of triggering subjects and asking you to avoid them is not dealing with the source of the problem.

Additionally, the "I don't like it" comments sound as if the student has learned that claiming not to like something is a really good way of avoiding it. My suggestion would be that unless there is a 504 plan or IEP in place that exempts the student from particular lessons (or somehow modifies them) that you go ahead and teach as you normally would. You will need to have a plan for what to do when the student protests. Talk with your principal before implementing changes.

Good luck!
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Old 11-20-2021, 12:10 PM
 
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I agree with TAOEP that the parent's list things that can't be discussed or taught ( ummm...Volcanoes is part of my science curriculum, sorry!) is not a reasonable way to handle this. It could be an ever growing list! ( and some are REALLY random things to claim to be afraid of! )

What happens if kids mention any if those things on the playground, etc? You can't sensor them talking about pyramids or multicultural activites(!!!??????)

Avoiding triggers is not the way to handle this. He needs counseling to learn how to deal with them. It could possibly be him also manipulating the situation. This needs to go to your P, guidance counselor and child study team asap if it hasn't already.

Good luck!
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Old 11-20-2021, 12:29 PM
 
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This is way too many things to try to accommodate in a regular classroom. I would not even try. This child’s needs, as presented by the parents, indicate a specialized placement needed. (But, my guess would be that would not be what they want.) Referral to team yesterday.

Unless this child has an IEP I would not modify anything. And, while it might happen elsewhere, I’ve never seen an IEP that lets a child veto segments of the curriculum. Don’t do the math assignment because you “don’t like it”, you earn the zero.

A child with issues this severe should be having difficulty in other settings and be in some form of therapy/ counseling outside of school. Have the parents indicated any form of outside services?

Last edited by marguerite2; 11-20-2021 at 12:50 PM.. Reason: autocorrect
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Take back your power
Old 11-20-2021, 12:52 PM
 
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This needs to stop. You canít let a child dictate what you teach. If itís part of the curriculum, teach it. If he refuses, he gets a consequence. No diagnosis or plan, no accommodations. If he wigs out, call an administrator.

Good luck- this has gone on too long.


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Old 11-20-2021, 03:47 PM
 
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I would not teach curriculum because has "issues". He needs an IEP to make any changes to how you teach. It seems as if he is holding your class hostage since other students needs are not being met.
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Wow!
Old 11-20-2021, 07:02 PM
 
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What has this world come to?
It amazes me how parents have learned to dictate the educational process and provide every excuse in the book for their child to get away with responsibilities. I understand the emotional issues being described, but the child clearly needs help. TELLING the Teacher what to teach and not to teach is overstepping the line!
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Old 11-21-2021, 04:06 AM
 
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I totally agree with everyone here and just wanted to add my support that this is most definitely a parent overreaching their boundaries. If this child needs this much accommodations, clearly a reg ed room is not for him. Start the process now however it works in your building but stop accommodating to his whims. Teach your curriculum and if it bothers him he can wear headphones or step out while your teaching.
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Politics?
Old 11-21-2021, 09:20 AM
 
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To be honest, this sounds like a kid who's been indoctrinated by parents with extreme political views (either far right or far left) who have conditioned them to be "triggered" as a "kill switch" to any lesson in which you might introduce content or discussion that might involve anything they see as remotely controversial or which might contradict what they are teaching at home.

Given that parents in most states were locked down with their kids for months on end, this may have provided ample time to "program" the child to respond this way. I also read about cases of parents eavesdropping on remote school lessons / discussions and being horrified at what they perceived as left-wing indoctrination by teachers (e.g. the teacher made reference to a same-sex couple or talked about climate change).

Given the topics that seem to trigger the child, I'm going out on a limb to suggest the parents may be right-wing nut jobs who are trying to counter-program against what they see as a shift to the left in public education and who are concerned their child may acquire values anathema to their own. It's not a new thing. In my day, there were one or two kids who were made (at their parents' insistence) to "sit out" certain science lessons or who were forbidden to read certain books taught in English classes.

These triggers seem rather strategic...

Pyramids: You might teach something other than that the pyramids were built as grain silos at the behest of Joseph, Prince of Egypt, during the events of the book of Genesis.

Vaccines: Parents have conditioned the child to believe that vaccines are dangerous and that those who take them have been duped by the media to believe that COVID-19 is anything other than a bad cold. They've taught that prayer, wholesome food, and a good night's sleep are all that's needed and that vaccines are just government-funded poison.

Climate Change: Parents think it's all a hoax and have taught the child to believe the same. Science schmience.

Multicultural activities: Parents probably get triggered by having to "press one for English" when they call a switchboard. They are "sick and tired of white folks getting the short end of the stick". They think anti-Black racism ended in the USA around 1970 and that anyone who says otherwise is "playing the race card" and making excuses for their own unwillingness to pull themselves up by their bootstraps like "real Americans" do. They think illegal immigration should be resolved by bigger walls and a "shoot on sight" policy. They blame immigrants for taking jobs from "real Americans" and driving down wages. Heck... they think it's just plain awful "normal people" don't wish each other "Merry Christmas" in shops and workplaces. You might teach that America is, in fact, a nation of immigrants and that accepting diversity makes us stronger as a nation and isn't part and parcel of the decline of civilization as we know it.

Now why is the child also triggered by things that seem politically neutral? Simple... the experiment has gotten out of the lab. They've conditioned the child to be triggered to kill any lesson you might offer that they would disagree with, but the child isn't dumb. They've realized this is also a useful little trick they can use to wrest power from you in your classroom (keep in mind the parents have probably framed teachers as the bad guy in their culture war and as mouthpieces for big government) and get out of anything they don't want to do.
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Old 11-21-2021, 01:53 PM
 
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I wonder what would happen if you went full in on the techniques you hinted at implementing before and set up a standard routine (with the kid's input?) that they can use when they feel triggered. A safe space out of the classroom? Or a desk/beanbag in a corner of the room where they can face away from the board? Plus headphones, a pre-selected music or white noise soundtrack cued up and ready to go, and a standard assignment to do in place of whatever they're missing - a practice website like iReady or IXL, a novel + task cards, etc. Plus a routine (hand signal?) for when the kid feels they need to move to their safe spot. And then continue to teach on as normal.

Fully buy in to the idea that the kid is triggered and needs to be allowed out of the activities, but also fully buy in to the idea that the other kids in the class deserve to not have their education censored by a classmate.

Me personally? I think the kid is probably dealing with some true anxiety, plus parents' opinions, plus a newfound knowledge that the can use their triggers as an excuse to get out of things. But you'll never prove that. So in this case, I'd let them "win" and escape any activities they want to, but secretly count it as a win for myself that I no longer have to feel manipulated.


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Old 11-22-2021, 09:43 AM
 
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Angelo, That is a lot of conjecture on your part, though you certainly let us know where you stand. I'm a conservative politically and a Christian. Based on that alone, you might assume that I'm a "right-wing nut job". However, none of what you said represents my views. For example, I am vaccinated and also got a booster shot. I teach English as a Second Language with love and respect for all of my students and their families. You probably wouldn't want me to make a long list of assumptions about you based on what you've shown us that you disagree with. It serves no purpose for us to do that to this child and his family either.

While compassion and kindness go a long way, my first though to your post, TwiceShy, is that this student has learned to get out of participating in class by saying that these things bother him, and his parents are either the ones who taught him this method or are going along with it, at the very least. If you don't have an IEP or 504 document that requires it, I don't think you should change your teaching or your curriculum. It wouldn't be fair to the other students in your class.
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Old 11-22-2021, 12:56 PM
 
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Thank you for saying this, RaceFan18. I was wanting to say the same thing.
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Old 11-22-2021, 06:13 PM
 
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"though you certainly let us know where you stand."

Did I? I said kids could be indoctrinated by far-right and far-left parents. I'm not a huge fan of either extreme. I'm guessing (and yes, it's a guess or conjecture or what you will) about the parents' views based on the rather specific "triggers" identified in the post. I could be way off base, of course, and if I am, what's the harm in some conjecture in an anonymous post replying to another anonymous post?

"I'm a conservative politically and a Christian. Based on that alone, you might assume that I'm a "right-wing nut job".

No, I wouldn't assume that necessarily. I'm a practicing Catholic. What's your point? I've met anti-vaxxers on the far right and the far left.

"I teach English as a Second Language with love and respect for all of my students and their families."

Great! We are on the same page! Regrettably, a lot of folks in this country take a less enlightened view of immigrants and their respective cultures. I'm always heartened to read that it's still "some" and not "all." Be honest enough to admit that many of the points I made as expressed by the fictional "parent" would not be out of place coming from the mouths of many, many aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, and so on around the Thanksgiving table this year.

"You probably wouldn't want me to make a long list of assumptions about you based on that you've shown us that you disagree with."

Hey, go ahead! Assume all you like about me. I'll tell you how close you are to the mark (and I'm pretty upfront). I'm long since past the point where I get my back up about strangers making assumptions on the Internet. Surely life is too short for that...?

If you've never had to sit through some twit saying "All lives matter" in response to work dismantling anti-Black racism or heard LGBTQ people referred to as "those people" or "people like that" or heard someone say, "I have nothing against gay people, I just believe..." (in support of denying equal rights) or heard people lower their voices conspiratorially and say, "the trouble with these people [meaning a particular ethnic group] is..." then consider yourself fortunate. If you don't encounter anti-vaxxer and anti-immigrant conspiracy theories, again, you are more fortunate than I. I can't seem to attend a single family function or read a single comment section without reading that sort of thing.
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Old 11-22-2021, 09:14 PM
 
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I actually agree with Angelo
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Old 11-23-2021, 06:04 AM
 
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TwiceShy, I'm so sorry that you're having to deal with this. I have a similar student....the number of things the child is triggered by is not as extensive but they're similarly out of the blue and (unfortunately for me) something that came up in the middle of instruction related to the content area that I teach.
My frustration with my student is that the parents aren't taking any steps to address the child's phobia(s). In working with the counselor at my school, she was firm that the other students not miss out on instruction in class simply because one kid had unexpected and unaddressed fear.
I don't have much real advice for you, as the child has much more extensive fears and some of them seem (from the outside) to be random. I would not change the curriculum for the child, I'd bring the child up to the special education screening team to address the issue, I'd try to find out what the parents are doing to address it (if you feel comfortable asking), and I'd come up with a plan for the child in the event that this occurs during class that allows you to move along with instruction for the rest of the class.
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Answer part 2
Old 11-23-2021, 09:49 AM
 
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Angelo, Yes, we both made assumptions. I just don't like labels or the stereotypes based on those labels. You're right that my point was "some", but not "all" in defense of one of those labels. I admit that I was guilty of stereotyping you based on your language and tone. I apologize for that, and I'm glad we have this platform where we can express our opinions and give each other advice even though we don't agree on all of the issues.

TwiceShy, I hope a school counselor or psychologist can help you discern whether your student has an actual anxiety issue or is trying to get out of doing his or her work. The truth may be somewhere in between!
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Old 01-10-2022, 04:27 PM
 
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The criteria for moving a student to a more restrictive classroom SHOULD be when the curriculum needs to be modified to such an extent that it no longer resembles the grade level curriculum. Notice I said SHOULD BE. Most school districts are afraid to move kids because of LRE and don't want to because of the money.

I agree with the others. This kid needs an IEP ASAP. I'd request a meeting. If they already have one then I'd start collecting data, documenting and doing an ABC log to show a change of placement is necessary.

I also really don't think this is true anxiety/PTSD. I'd guess it's either ED and/or learned behavior. "I don't like it," "I don't want to," doesn't scream PTSD to me. My question is, what happens if you push? Does the kid melt down? What happens if you ignore and say, "Ok, well this is what we're doing today." I think I'd stop teaching around 1 student, keep teaching and document what happens. And honestly, you'll get farther if there are meltdowns, room clears, etc.
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