Learning from kids with challenging behavior

This blog entry was first posted on Neurologically Gifted in August and was designed to be read in the days leading up to the start of a new school year. However, the principles in this entry still hold sway today, so it’s worth a read!

The YouTube video titled “The First Day” highlights my stepson Nathan and my thoughts and reflections as they relate to teaching students with TS+ (or ANY neurologic disorder that causes challenging behavior in the classroom).

As I begin to contemplate the first day of school for the 2013-2014 school year, I recall my years as a young student – the feeling of anxiety and stress brought on by the approach of a new school year bubbled inside me, physically manifesting in tics such as (in my case) sniffing, head and shoulder twitching, repeatedly punching myself in the thighs because they wouldn’t stop moving.

Even a Vice Principal who has Tourette+ gets anxious and has elevated tic frequency just prior to the start of the school year.  Having experienced both sides of the learning coin however, I can confidently state that whatever challenge my TS+ poses for me in my job as a teacher or Vice Principal, it is far less than what I experienced as a student who had TS+.  For a child who has neurologic disorders, the student’s job is far more challenging and stressful than the teacher’s job.

A teacher may be challenged to manage any student’s behavior while striving to reach them academically as well.  However, the neurologically challenged student is struggling to manage their behavior (although it may not be obvious to the teacher), while feeling embarrassed in front of their peers – while simultaneously attempting to listen, understand and respond in oral/written format.

Often, a student will be left exhausted, embarrassed and defeated.  When in “trouble”, they don’t understand what they did wrong, and failed to learn what was taught (causing further stress, thus creating further anxiety and sense of loss).

When I had to deal with a challenging student or class as a teacher, I knew I just had to survive to the end of the year and I would get a fresh start the following year.  For the student who suffers from challenging behavior because of a neurologic condition, the suffering goes on with no end in sight.

Learning From Kids With Challenging Behaviour

Challenging BehaviorEffectively teaching a student who has TS+ requires a caring teacher who is committed to observe, learn and grow. You will need to observe triggers that cause stress or misbehavior, and learn how to reduce or counteract them.  Having this student in your class will force you to learn about the student’s challenges, and the strategies for helping him/her overcome them (by the way – these strategies work for all students).

In addition to becoming a more knowledgeable teacher, you will enjoy the reward of sharing the student’s success, knowing that you made a difference in a child’s life!  Do not be afraid of having a student who is neurologically challenged in your classroom.  Be brave and care.  Team up with the parents and get support from your school system.  TS+ kids with challenging behavior can learn.

I did.

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