Early on in JRA’s history, we sadly had to conclude that one of our older students had mental health issues that we weren’t equipped to handle, and he needed long term hospitalization. Because we had done a good job of shielding our younger students from this teen’s problems, they didn’t understand why he was leaving. One child, a third grader, had an especially hard time and his behavior became out of control. We talked about it as a staff, and we realized he was afraid HE was going to be kicked out too and planned to speed up the process. After all, this teen hadn’t done anything so bad that HE could see. So one morning after circle time, a parent volunteer took all the other kids into another room while the whole staff remained behind with P.
He was sure he knew what was coming, and he visibly steeled himself to hear the bad news. But he was wrong. The staff stood with him in a circle. I started by saying that we knew he was worried about being expelled, but he was not going to be. Each staff person took a minute to tell P. how much we cared about him, what special thing we each liked about him, and why we were so glad he was at JRA. He stood there with tears streaming down his face as he listened avidly and then hugged us all before running out of the room to hide for a bit. While he still had occasional behaviors after that, on the whole, the change was immediate and dramatic. Behavior is communication.
On my newsfeed today has been the story of a ten-year-old with autism who was arrested and jailed for assault. All of us who work at JRA get so frustrated when we hear stories like that. A child who is hitting and kicking is usually a child in great distress, and it’s incumbent upon the adults who work with him to figure out why. No child gets up in the morning and determines to make as many people miserable as is humanly possible; in fact it takes great bravery to face the world anew each day when one has failed so miserably the day before.
Behavior is communication and we work hard to figure out what a child is telling us. I wish we could take even more kids who need our help. That is why we are asking for YOUR help. Your donations can help us apply that philosophy to even more kids. Thanks to those who have been so generous.