Dr. Delahooke begins the chapter reminding us about using IDEA, behavior tracking, and early experiences.
Inquire: Find out the child’s history and look for behavior patterns.
Determine: Try to figure out what is distressing the child.
Examine: look at for causes and triggers
Address: support with interactions developmental problems that are causing behaviors.
In another case study, after tracking and learning the child’s history, it was discovered that a child’s preschool bullying experience had left him on the red pathway when interacting with others. This trauma had skewed his perception and he interpreted ordinary interactions as threats. The result was that he hit others. This instinct was subconscious and the child could not explain why he hit others. Certain sounds, sights, sensations, and experiences were triggers leading to regular overreactions.
It is important to note that what causes trauma for one person, may not cause trauma for another.
The treatment plan was to hire an aid to provide him with a sense of safety when he was moving toward the red pathway. The teacher also helped provide cues of safety. When the child moved toward the red path, they would move closer, speak calmly, and use reassuring facial cues and body language.
Tracking behavior it was noted that the child was developmentally behind in problem solving with peers. The team decided that “play” would be a natural way to develop this skill.
“Play allows for children to integrate and use bottom-up and top-down functioning in real time. It’s one of the most therapeutic things we can do with children” (p.176).
Therapeutic Developmental play must:
- Involve an attentive engaging adult (In the case study, the parents played with their child.)
- Be enjoyable and safe
- Have a child driven plan
- Have mutual engagement (no distractions)
- Not include teaching or questioning
- Have an adult embracing their character
Dramatic play is not the only beneficial type of play. Sports, games etc. are also valuable as long as there is engagement, conversation, and a sense of safety.
For more information on using play visit https://www.playproject.org/
Once a child demonstrates the ability to using top-down thinking, we can introduce self-regulation and teach problem solving skills. When teaching a state, it is important to be neutral and show appreciation for how they protect us. We can help students recognize their own triggers and how they are feeling. We reinforce the idea that experiencing emotions and learning to manage them is a normal part of life. When the child recognizes their state of being, they can then be taught to problem solve and create their own solutions. (There is a sample lesson in the book for teaching children to recognize and name their state.)
Finally, Dr. Delahooke mentions the stigma regarding mental health and recommends as adults we talk about our emotions with acceptance. She recommends looking into the work of Brene’ Brown.