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Strategies to help children ignore distractions
Old 01-26-2018, 08:49 PM
 
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It has been a long time since I have posted here or indeed come into the forum but I find myself faced with a very interesting child this coming year and while I do not want advice for how I can deal with him, I would like some suggestions for how to help my children deal with his behaviours. This is a tad on the long side so I thank you for bearing with me if you get past the first paragraph!

My class this year is a 3rd/4th grade composite class. The child concerned is very anxious and when overwhelm will end up either in fetal position with his thumb in his mouth or lashing out either at property or people. He has what we call 'wrap around services' meaning a team of psychologists work with his family to offer strategies and support so that he is able to remain in school. There are monthly meetings with the psychologists, teacher aides, teacher, parents and after school care to monitor his progress.

Behaviour on a day to day basis varies. He does not handle being told 'Do this' so instructions are carefully phrased so as not to seem demanding. If he does not want to do something, he is to ask to be allowed not to and is to be excused. This is to take the power from him simply not doing a task and putting it back with the adult. There is obviously more involved than this but it is hard to go into to it without lots of detail - he is not ODD but similar: his anxiety is triggered by those types of situations.

However, this is where the problem I need some suggestions for comes in. He can, if bored (through his own choice not to participate) become distracting with movement or noise and I have other children I know will not tolerate this well (having had them last year). What ignoring strategies have people used with children to not give attention to other child's efforts to distract or entertain or annoy? He can be taken out of the room if need be but weather does not always permit this and my other children do need to learn both patience and focus

Any suggestions welcomed, thank you.


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unfair situation
Old 01-27-2018, 03:55 AM
 
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Unfortunately, I think you are in for a lot of other children "asking" to be excused from work when they don't feel like doing it.

But to your actual question:

I'd say seat the easily distracted kids away from the distracting one.

Teach them to close their eyes and breathe slowly for a few seconds.

Allow them "offices" (those cardboard things from Really Good Stuff, or homemade ones) when they are having a hard time focusing.

Maybe play some sort of game (on a rainy recess day or something) that involves strengthening "ignoring" skills - Simon Says, where they aren't supposed to copy you if you don't say the right words, things like that.
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Ignoring distractions
Old 01-27-2018, 07:09 AM
 
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We work on this as part of our reading workshop. For my noise sensitive students, I've gotten old headphones to wear to muffle noises. I have an "office" set up in a corner that they can use if they need to work in a more isolated spot, but I only have room for one of those.

Good luck. I hope you can accomadate this child without too much of an impact on the general Ed students.
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Distractions
Old 01-27-2018, 07:51 AM
 
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Fortunately it sounds like he's getting a lot of help from everyone, often unusual in this day and age.

I did think of something and have no idea if it is still available . IKEA used to sell a child size egg chair. It had a "hood" you could pull down to "hide" in. Something like this might help him tune out and be less distracting.
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What about using
Old 01-27-2018, 01:47 PM
 
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something like Legos? Would he like working with those? Maybe so him to do a task and show it with the Legos? I have a Lego table in the back as a reward for some of my students and they love it. It is more for the end of the day when all work is done. I have one boy and he lives for this. He knows if he gets most of his work done, itís Lego time. Parents have been happy bc he does not throw tantrums anymore and most of his work is done and not left for them to help him with or do.


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Old 01-27-2018, 04:46 PM
 
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Lakeside, fortunately half the children were with him last year so know how he is and that just because he gets to go outside doesn't means they do.The 'offices or the ikea egg that keltikmom suggested could work - at the moment I have both him and his teacher aid at two desks in what was lasts years coveted corned sport - it has the double advantages of being side-on to the rest of the class at the front of the room and right next to the door in case he needs to be taken out in a hurry! (taken out sounds quite permanent) Not quite an office Munchkins but like you, there is only space for one corner retreat/office and he is my priority so I will try he there and see what happens. Won't know how that works until we start back on the 7th of Feb.

He has some meccano type connecting things - not really sure what they are called - that he enjoys. I do have some other linking type things so perhaps I will try the bribery vanvic. Sometimes it works with him but other days nothing does.

We are going to use the GoNoodle mindfulness activities and we do take ten minute run around outside brain breaks in the middle of our two morning blocks (they are 1hr 45mins - too long without a break!)

It will be an interesting year that is for sure - hopefully my apparently 'relaxed room' (as it has been described by my principal) will help keep him calm and less stressed. Thank you for all of your suggestions
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Some ideas
Old 01-27-2018, 05:02 PM
 
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When you realize a meltdown is building but not yet imminent, can you have the aide take him for a walk or run a short errand? Prearrange it with another teacher or librarian. "Please carry these books (or whatever) to the library." Next time, have the child go get them. "Please take this note to the Nurse/lunch lady/secretary..." The errand may distract him and/or make him feel important or trusted. It could also result in him feeling more mature or trying harder or similar.

Also, maybe one of the times he is out, you can thank your remaining students for their patience and efforts regarding him. Extend the thank you speech to include more ways to ignore him. FERPA says you can't tell them much, but, if they've been together 2 years, they already know a lot.

If you can't move him because of the aide, give the students closest to him or most affected the opportunity to move away. "Xyz, would you like to sit in the library area where it is quieter? " You don't have to say it is because of him.
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Old 01-27-2018, 11:16 PM
 
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Fortunately Whatever, because we are a small school, pretty much everyone below me has had him (other than the two new teachers who have come in) and everyone above me will get him so there is a vested interest for everyone to get to know him (helps reduce his anxiety) and to help with techniques to calm him. I don't mind where the aide (he has two as having one just burns them out ) and he work - I'll move them to where ever is best and my seating arrangements have been flexible for a couple of years: some desks, a standing table with the option of tall stools and a couple of low pallet tables.

I will praise the children for the patience though - particularly as the ones I have kept from last year are my anxious, take longer to settle, less socially adept kids. But they are mine
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Psych suggestions
Old 01-28-2018, 08:31 AM
 
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Iím wondering what the psychologists suggest to help him participate in activities. Does he ever participate or his anxiety so high nothing really ever gets done? Is the goal simply to be within the environment?

Do you know what his triggers are? I assume theyíve done an FBA at this point? Would a token system work to encourage more participation? Does he engage at all with his peers?

As far as how to help the other kids, other posters have given good advice. Honestly, the only thing I can think of is to try and determine what his triggers are and put proactive strategies in place to either avoid those triggers or, remove him from the room prior to a meltdown. Unfortunately, it sounds like his mental health needs are complicated and difficult to predict.

I am sending you positive energy and wishing you good luck in planning for this child. Iíve had one similar and it made for a long year.
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Old 01-28-2018, 08:37 PM
 
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TeachNFriend - he is definitely an interesting character, as is his sister who I taught for two year. She was also very anxious and clingy, very young for her age and still is. We are what is known as a full primary - years 1 - 8 (grades K - 7) - whereas most primary schools here go to year 6. It means we have 8 - 8.5 years to work with students but some of those students can make that time seem twice as long - and some of them NEED twice as long with us. This boy will be one of them.

The psychologist last year part way through decided that giving him his own withdrawal room when he didn't want to work was a good idea. ALL work stopped, not just the work he had previously had anxiety around - writing - so we now have a lot of work to do in 'retraining' him (for want of a better word) to not opt out of everything because he thinks he will be able to go straight onto his iPad apps as they psych. suggested. He gets bored doing that and that's when the fun begins - hence the need to help my other children learn the ignoring strategies. The two TAs are good at managing him but last year's TA does tend to become negative about the situation (lack of work, child manipulating the asking to not do work thing) as did his last teacher but I refuse to do so because I have 26 other students who do not deserve that teacher.

With writing he has backed himself into such a corner with having refused to do it that he won't even tell a story/recount/procedure to his TA for HER to write down. He goes straight into panic mode. My class and the one next door have a TA who takes all our kids in small groups for writing focussing on whatever the main genre for the term is. I am going to see if he will go in with his TA and listen to her and then 'supervise' his TA when she writes, offers suggestions, reminds her about punctuations etc That way he is not writing but gets to hear the lesson as well as demonstrating through editing his TA's work that he has learnt something, anything, please, I hope.

At the moment the goal is really to stop his current trend toward violence - both toward children and adults. I would like to get through the year uninjured and without any annoyed parents asking why their child is being assaulted by that one.


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Interesting situation...
Old 01-29-2018, 04:25 AM
 
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I will resist a temptation to comment on the distractor. You're correct in putting some focus on the remaining students... and you have been given some great ideas.

One I would add is to consider asking the other students for ideas and assistance--individually and as a group. There truly is a teaching opportunity here since we all must learn to focus and filter out distractions. (Ever try to talk to an adult who can't stop checking their cell phone?) I would suggest some simple questions like "How can I help you focus?" "What would make it easier for you to...(whatever the task at hand is)?"

Obviously, it may be necessary to reject or adjust some of the suggestions. It might also make sense to give the student(s) options. Borrowing from some of the ideas presented, "Sally you seem to be having difficulty concentrating... would headphones or a privacy panel help you?" I might be tempted to tap into the kids who don't seem impacted, "John, what are some things you do to help yourself concentrate?"

Kids can become very focused--creating the opposite problem when they run into the street chasing a ball. Or when they get busy chatting with a neighbor and don't listen to the teacher. We need to figure out how to tap into that and teach balance.

There's a fundamental truth that we tend to get more of what we focus on. While this sounds like a particularly difficult distraction, in a sense it becomes about "focusing on focusing."

This is not a criticism, it's just an observation. Isn't it interesting how much of the discussion has been about the student causing the distraction? :-) He definitely needs and deserves help, but he also needs some "ignoring" and helping the balance of the class learn to do that is important.
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Writing
Old 01-29-2018, 04:29 AM
 
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Sheesh! What is it about writing? We have a student in our school who will do just about anything to avoid writing. He was quite aggressive towards others as well.

Our P start consistently suspending him and letting parents and child know that aggression towards others ( adult or child) would not be tolerated. His behaviour has improved immensely. Heís still resisting work but not to the same degree. Our focus has been on making sure we donít accidentally reinforce unwanted behaviours. Thatís where the FBA comes in handy.

The classroom teacher is working really hard this year to give voice to his anxieties and is teaching him the language to support improved mental health. (Lots of counselor talk). He is a work in progress for sure. Weíve done that with a few of our angrier students and it seems to be helping. Have you heard of Zones of Regulation? Itís a great program.

Your posts sound like you will be a caring teacher for this boy. He is lucky to have you.
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Old 01-29-2018, 11:51 AM
 
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TeachNFriend, he has had two suspensions for violence and he will continue to get them for that reason. His parents are called to collect him when then incident happens, not at the end of the day. Dad is good, mum not so much (they are separated) For other incidents, he has had in school suspensions.

MaineSub, the whole class is 'interesting' in that there are a number with anxiety issues (I seem to be the 'go to' teacher for those children ), a couple who are dyslexic - fortunately, despite their struggles with reading they both still enjoy reading - one frequent absentee, one with global delays, one with memory retention issues and learning difficulties and a number who are learning basic social skills. However, none have what could be called 'behaviour problems' - they are just an interesting bunch of kids, half of them have me for a second year (which I am very pleased about - my principal has allowed us to have two composite classes so we can loop some students based on emotional/social needs at 3rd/4th grade level. We are the only two composite classes of 8 in the school)

I am flexible as to where kids can work, especially if they are being distracted - I have a couple of boys who occasionally ask if they can work in the hallway by the office or in with the principal if they realise they are too distracted or getting behind. The child concerned will be seated in such a place as to be near enough to others to be part of the class but far enough way as to not be distracted too easily - I hope! His teacher aide stays with all the time (all day, every day) and they can go outside for breaks when needed. They are working one-on-one with hime so will see his mood changes probably quicker than I will - they will certainly recognise his signals of a mode change quicker to begin with. Asking the children for suggestions is a good idea and I will do that as we talk about class rules - then everyone, including the child concerned, can hear the ideas.

Thank you all for your help - this year (and probably next) will be an interesting ride!
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For Sitamoia
Old 01-30-2018, 03:27 AM
 
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Quote:
my principal has allowed us to have two composite classes so we can loop some students based on emotional/social needs at 3rd/4th grade level. We are the only two composite classes of 8 in the school)
We are in our second year of composite classes... ours are also based on academic needs and, as I understand it, first-year experiments were wildly successful in terms of kids "catching up."

We have several students similar to your disruptor... one who--for no apparent reason--will start screaming non-stop. The kids are better than ignoring him than I am! (As a sub, I'm not with him every day but we are a small school and I get to know the kids.)

I've found that sharing classroom management both with the entire class and with individuals creates engagement and ownership, plus allows us to teach more than academics. Part of the challenge is, of course, deciding how much to share.

I once covered a classroom during the perfect storm. It included a high needs kid whose usual helper was absent and there was no sub for her. We started late due to a weather delay, etc. Lots of turmoil... I took the child aside and quickly explained some of the differences including, "Mrs. Helper is not here today." He looked panicked and said "Who is going to help me!!?" I said, "You're going to have two people today!" One was me (but I can't be with you 100%) and "the other is you." I explained briefly how we were going to work together and some ways he could help himself. We had the most amazing day! He needed none of his usual breaks/walks and he actually ended up helping me lead several class activities. I know that wouldn't work every day, but I tell the story because I think it shows how sharing can help kids rise to our expectations.

I suspect you are the go-to for "interesting" students because you are successful. And I suspect you are successful because of your compassion and commitment to learning and the kids. Thank you for that!
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Old 01-30-2018, 11:23 AM
 
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Quote:
We have several students similar to your disruptor... one who--for no apparent reason--will start screaming non-stop. The kids are better than ignoring him than I am!
Fortunately MaineSub, he hasn't taken to doing that! Being a small school, he knows all of our TAs so if another needs to step in, it isn't too much of au upset for him. If there isn't anyone - which has occasionally happened, he is not able to come to school due to his behaviours. Fortunately there are fewer than a handful of days per year that this would happen.

I think like your child, giving him opportunities to be responsible (with his TA) but also the back out space if it is too anxiety inducing could work.

I think part of the reason I get these children is that I don't take their behaviour personally - which sound a strange thing to say but you would be surprised (or perhaps not ) at how many teachers do. Including the ones who are on either side of me level wise. I can have a bad day and it is just that, the next day is a new start, none of it is a personal attack on me. But thank you for your compliment - it is most appreciated
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