Calming Down Teddy, an Emotionally Disturbed Boy

By Ann Adams

Teddy is one of too many children who are victims of child abuse and neglect. With an emotionally disturbed diagnosis, he spent two and a half years in our intermediate level residential treatment facility (From GC: Ann holds an administrative position with this facility.) Teddy had made a lot of progress and was scheduled to leave on Friday to a therapeutic foster home.

He had refused to go to school Monday and Tuesday and was again refusing Wednesday morning.

His therapist, and other staff who had special relationships with him, had tried reassuring him about his upcoming move. He would not be comforted. So on Wednesday morning, starting the third day, he threw things and threatened and screamed and cursed. He had trashed his room several times in the last two days but Wednesday was the first time he had acted like he might hit anyone. He appeared to be doing everything possible to sabotage his upcoming discharge.

With brown hair and brown eyes and almost 11 years old, Teddy was considered 'cute.' But he did not look particularly 'cute' when I saw him through the door of the behavior control room at 9 a.m. that Wednesday morning. He was agitated, angry and cursing loudly. He had been disrupting the unit for over 2 hours. Staff had called 20 minutes earlier for a seclusion order after he had been restrained for physically threatening a staff member who tried to calm him after he had trashed his room for the third time that week.

Still cursing, he stared at me as I peered at him through the plastic bubble on the door of the seclusion room. I asked if he thought he had been in seclusion long enough. He glared at me but nodded. I told him I knew a way that helped kids calm down quickly so that maybe he could get out sooner. Did he want to try it? He nodded again, still glaring and hostile. I told him to move to the back wall and I would unlock the door. He did, and I did, and I sat down in the doorway.

I went straight to it. "First you tap your hand on the Karate chop spot," showing him as I spoke. When upset, Teddy was not known for his cooperative nature or his willingness to follow instructions! I knew I couldn't push too hard and that I had a limited window of opportunity. But he wanted out of seclusion, so he tapped. He glared at me as I said, "Even though you did something really foolish today, you are still a good kid."

His eyes got larger and he nodded and tapped the side of his hand. "Even though you trashed your room, you are still a good kid." He tapped and nodded. "Even though you got really mad at staff, you are still a good kid." He tapped and nodded.

Following my lead, he tapped the points. When we were through the points, I held my arms apart as far as they would go and asked, "If you were this upset when I first came in, and, this is not upset at all (hands in prayer position), how upset are you now?" I had not asked this question at first as it was pretty obvious he was a 10! He just stared. I stretched my hands out again all the way and told him to tell me when I get to the right place. I moved my hands in slowly. At about the half-way point, he nodded. He was beginning to look 'cute' again!

I said, "Great, this is working good for you, let's try it again." I started again tapping the side of my hand as I said with increasing enthusiasm. "Even though you got really upset, you are still a neat kid." He nodded and tapped. "Even though you are really scared about leaving here on Friday, you are still a wonderful kid." His eyes widened further and he nodded vigorously and tapped. "Even though you are worried about moving to a new place with new people, you are still a super terrific kid." His brown eyes widened even further and he nodded even more vigorously and tapped. He again followed me as we tapped the points.

When finished I moved my hands in slowly. He nodded when I got to about 6 inches apart. "This works great." I said, "Let's do it again." I repeated the set up as above adding in a few more adjectives such as marvelous and fantastic kid. As before, as I said each statement his eyes would widen and he would nod vigorously. He really seemed to be taking in each word. We completed another tapping sequence.

"So how upset are you now?" But before I could get my hands out to take a measure, this child, who had wreaked havoc on the unit for over two days put his hands together in the prayer position and smiled at me. He had not said a word through the entire process.

"Wow!" I said, "Cool stuff. This works really good for you." He nodded, still smiling. "Staff tells me you are refusing to go to school." The smile left his face for a truly visible sign of another aspect! "Can you tell me what the problem is at school?" I figured that even if he would not answer me, I could create possible set up phrases. But he did! "They tease me," he said. We talked a minute, and I mean a minute, about the kids at school. This was a child of few words!

I then conducted set up phrases based on the problems he shared. Each time he nodded at the 'super kid' part. After three sets, he put his hands together in the prayer position and said, "I want to go to ISS."

ISS is in-school suspension where, during school hours, a child must complete mandated natural consequence 'time' for negative behavior. After calming down from seclusion, a resident has a choice to spend the 'natural consequence' quiet time in either the ISS room or the behavior control room with the door open. Most chose ISS!

While my experience with EFT made me believe this child could now go straight to the classroom quietly, I respected his choice. He processed with the staff who had secluded him and we left the unit hand in hand to the on-campus school.

Teddy served his 'time' in ISS, completed the remainder of the week in school and was no further problem on the unit. He left on Friday all excited about his new 'family.'

Ann Adams, MSW, LCSW

 

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