We've Got a Screamer, Folks

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by teachersk, Oct 25, 2007.

  1. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

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    Oct 25, 2007

    I teach in a cross-categorical special education classroom. I only have four students this year. They are all very low academically, but I have seen them improve so much since I began working with them (beginning of last year 06-07).

    I have one student who "graduated" from our life skills program and is now in my classroom. It is still a self-contained classroom but we work on a lot more academics (but it is 2-3 grade levels behind).

    She is the most interesting kid. I love her to death. She is AU, she's cute and funny. She just has this PERSEVERATING that cannot for the life of it be stopped. ANYTHING she sees or wants will be on her little turntable in her head, ready to be screamed at any moment. Anything that triggers it (it could be a reminder cue - some other child saying the words "pumpkin patch" --- an announcement over our loud speaker -- "don't forget to come get your prizes in the office", or even just a simple day of frustration where when she's upset -- she just screams).

    We have a communication system for her in her daily schedule book. She uses it when she "loses her words" because she's so upset. She is primarily verbal but has days where she decides she's non-verbal until she wants to scream it all out.

    Anyhow, point of my post is: screaming. Constant screaming. There is NOTHING that will make her stop.

    My battle is that I can either give her what she wants and prevent these outbursts, or I can run my structured day like I do with the rest of the kids and she can join us or choose to scream. But, we all suffer (all of the teachers and classes in our building) because the screaming is SO intense. I am constantly trying to decide whether to just give her easier work (she usually gets frustrated if it's something that's "challenging" -- which I like to do with all of my kids. Sometimes it's not even something that difficult but if I say "whoops-- add an apostrophe!" Or something like that, there's an immediate outburst meltdown like "It's not right, you got it wrong, no 100% for you, stop that you bad girl, you are so dumb, you got it wrong!" And then that continues on for at least an hour - and like I said before - will slowly twirl into other things that have not yet surfaced (I want pumpkin patch, I want Dora Movie, I want gameboy, I want _____) basically anything she has seen that she "wants" at that time.

    We have tried visuals, social stories, rewards, punishments, increased priveleges for good behavior, sticker charts, check sheets, behavior logs, special "parties" at the end of the day for a good day (which ended up getting perseverated on, like everything else, so the day would be ruined when it could have been good --- because she ended up screaming "I want good girl party I want good girl party" for the duration of the day.

    It's SO frustrating. She's a kid who works so well with rewards, but PERSEVERATES on EVERYTHING and ANYTHING. So, I can't use rewards, because we end up putting our feet in our mouth if we say anything about them ahead of time, because she flips out if she can't have it right then!

    We have her in my classroom (which is a Structured Teaching Model classroom) --- every second of the day is structured. We do the SAME exact thing, every single day. It is not a "scheduling" or "routine" issue, because we follow the same thing every day.

    Like I said, I could leave all of her stuff as she does it - because she's a perfectionist.... but then how can I teach her the things I need to teach her? (that math problem is incorrect, that sentence makes no sense, etc) --- these are the times that the meltdowns happen, when she has to be corrected.

    Sometimes the meltdowns are just random and have nothing to do with work. All of the teachers in the hall can tell that I am slowly going nuts. The other kids are subjected to four to five to six hours of screaming every day. We have nowhere else to go. I have an administration that is not very supportive of anything that has to do with special ed. The mother WILL NOT come get her "due to the behavior issues" because it is "our problem." She says She's at school and we need to implement some behavior modifications to fix the issues at school. "I will NOT come get her." The Life Skills teacher and I take turns on figuring out what to try with her.

    Like I said, I'm going nuts. Today was the fourth consecutive day this week where the screaming was over 3 hours long. We have noise cancelling headphones that I put on all of my students and my assistant. I was joking that we were all on a plane and I called all the kids lieutenants - and I was yelling "we've got an assignment guys, let's get going!" And we were using our pencils as our flight controllers and making static noises over our eraser radios. (all the while, the screaming child was in the middle of the room laying in a bean bag kicking her feet in the air, screaming, and screaming, at the top of her lungs) --- we COMPLETELY ignored today, and THAT didn't even work!

    NUTS! I am going NUTS!

    Does ANYONE have any ideas for me??? I am up for ANYTHING.

    NUTS NUTS NUTS.
     
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  3. Budaka

    Budaka Cohort

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    Oct 25, 2007

    i'm sorry that I don't have any help. Just sympathy and reading your story makes me think that I should not ever complain about my students again!
     
  4. kabd54

    kabd54 Cohort

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    Oct 25, 2007

    I don't know how you do it. You have my admiration and respect for being able to carry on with the rest of your students in spite of the noise.

    Why is that student not being removed from the classroom? Can you get her to yell into a pillow? I know that probably sounds completely lame, but I can't even begin to think what suggestions I could make that would lighten your load and save your sanity.

    There's bound to be someone on the forum who's had an experience similar to yours. I hope you get the help/advice you need. :hugs:
     
  5. nicegirl

    nicegirl Comrade

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    Oct 27, 2007

    Have you tried giving her something to replace the screaming? It sounds like she is using screaming as her escape, maybe another method of escape would work better. I don't know what would work for her since I don't know what she likes.

    Also, you said you have headsets for noise. Did you ever consider letting her use one? If she is motivated by a reward system perhaps she could get a reward for every period she has the headset on. If others, announcements, etc are acting as triggers make it to where she can't be bothered by them. Again, just an idea.

    Also, when correcting her can you turn into more of a re-direction? Instead of saying, "this answer is wrong" something like "can we try this one again or another way"... or that's definitely one way to do it, but let's see how else we can work this problem.

    Okay, just ideas and I am new to teaching so none of these may work..... but this is all I got.....

    I feel your pain on behavior issues. I am a Life Skills teacher and sometimes there is no solution to the problem.
     
  6. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

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    Oct 27, 2007

    She will not tolerate a headset! Any kind of reward system is out of the question. We have tried many different types and modified them and re-worked them, and have not been successful. The sad thing is, she is TOTALLY motivated by rewards. But almost -- .... too motivated? She becomes completely obsessed with whatever the reward is, and then ends up ruining her good behavior by replacing it with perseverating on whatever the reward is, to the point where she is no longer eligible to earn the reward. Which stinks, because she's a kid who really doesn't get a lot at home (attention or material things) and rewards would be so cool to give her (and motivate her so much because she's so interested in them.... and I'd love to be able to reward her.... but she ruins it every time with her perseverating!)

    I bought school t-shirts as a class set to keep in the classroom. I made a chart for each kid and it had a T-shirt under each day. If they had a good day (no screaming, no toilet accidents, no bad news from other teachers, no hitting others, did homework, got folder signed, etc.) -- then on Friday they were permitted to wear the shirts (it's spirit day). I thought this would work because the chart clearly denotes that t-shirt day is Friday (Friday is highlighted with a big smiley face, the rest of the days just have a picture of a t-shirt to color in) --- but what ended up happening was she would see the chart and freak out that she didn't have a shirt. She'd scream "I want t-shirt I want t-shirt" over and over again, until I had to finally explain that because she was screaming, she couldn't have the shirt! Or, I'd give her "three strikes" -- "you can talk about the t-shirt three more times, but after that, we're done." She'd scream, "t-shirt, t-shirt, t-shirt" ...... and then I'd be left with no other options!

    I so badly want to reward her, but cannot do so without any serious perseverating going on!

    With the correcting - once she's finished a worksheet or assignment, she's checked out. ANY corrections, whether they come in a negative or positive format, means her paper is not a 100%, which means an outburst. I would LOVE it if I could say, "let's look at this again..." or "does yours match mine?" etc.... but she just will not tolerate ANY corrections.

    ******AS AN UPDATE******
    Friday, so I could "regain control of my classroom" -- I did keep her in THE MOST STRUCTURED ENVIRONMENT she could possibly be in. She did not join us for circle time, she did not go to specials, there were basically NO transitions for her. I set up a work folder with 8 pockets, each pocket had a letter -- to end up spelling out COMPUTER - and when she finished all the work (without me correcting it) - she earned 15 minutes of computer. This is the system she worked on ALL day. She is a workaholic when it comes to work she knows and does not have to be corrected on. It was basically busy work. So, yes, I remedied the situation, but only temporarily. First off, the copy lady thought I was crazy because I kept running up for more copies - the kid must have done more than 50 worksheets in the whole day. That's more than most of my other kids do in a week, because we do a lot of hands on work. The kid enjoys working at her desk quietly! And it basically kept out ANY and ALL frustrations. (She was too busy working to hear the announcements, I wasn't correcting her, there were n o timers going off transitioning her from activity to activity, etc.) -- Seemed to work well! If I can only incorporate some actual TEACHING in there..... we'd be on the right track. But for now, the teachers in the hallways thanked me for "whatever I did" on Friday to allow the other kids to work without hearing "shut up you sh*t" and a head banging against the wall all day................


    Suggestions still welcome!
    I plan to slowly transition her back into my reading groups and math groups, etc. which are a main part of our structured day... so that she has teaching and interaction with other kids... but until then..... it's worksheet city.
     
  7. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Oct 27, 2007

    I have no real suggestions but hopefully you really hit the jackpot and found what works best for her. Maybe you could allow less involved hands on activities when you do start to reintegrate her and even let her have a section of the class alone to do it alone initially. Quietly start one on one teaching (shorter) before letting her rejoin the group so you still get some teaching in. I like that you figured out structure was what she needed most. Sometimes people will do the opposite and think they need less constraints when they actually need structure to feel safe. Really I feel like I'm just restating what you already said your plan is.
     
  8. fratbrats

    fratbrats Comrade

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    Oct 28, 2007

    Hello,

    We had a girl with autism in our class last year as well. She needed her own little area that she could go cool down in our room.

    She was a first grader, so it was actually between two file cabinets with a piece of cardboard over it to make it not so bright. We hung a gym mat on the wall to prevent her from banging the wall. She liked to look at herself in the mirror, so we had a locker mirror (plastic, of course, hanging on the file cabinets) We had a floor pillow to sit on and a blanket available to her. She would go there to comfort herself and we kept expecting more out of her as the year went on. By the end of the year, she knew that if she was screaming or out of control, it had to be in that area. This would decrease the fits because she didn't like to be told to go in that area. She wouldn't be able to get the attention for what ever she was trying to communicate to us, but we weren't understanding. Or, sometimes we knew what she wanted, but had been told no, and it was truly a tantrum. She would sometimes listen to the lessons from there, but gradually began sitting in a desk or at circle time for longer periods of time. She always had some sort of a fidget and food was a motivator.

    We also covered all the lights with paper to help with the humming noise and darken the room slightly. She would wear a weighted vest and use one of those cushions on her chair. She also used a trampolene. I don't know the name of the company, but the trampolene is available through FAO Schwartz online. It must be available other places too. The PT ordered it for her. We worked all year long to find out what was an antecedent to her screaming. She definitely needed structure and half-days were the worst. She knew it wasn't time to go home.

    The Behavior system that worked in our room was a butterfly with 4 wings. The wings were green, blue, yellow, and red. If you had been reminded, but were continuing a behavior, you lost a wing. If you lost all your wings, no "good day prize". It was a piece of candy, a whistle straw, party bubbles, just something small. It was effective to her. The first few times that she didn't get a prize it was bad, but by the end of the year, no big deal.

    I'm thinking of doing some sort of good day prize in my room this year. I'm trying to think if I need something that visual or perhaps, drawing a ticket at the end of the day for one prize. (Still pondering that one!)

    We do have Fun Friday and if you have behaved according to my level system, you can participate. It's the last 35 minutes of the day. We bring healthy snacks for the kids and they get free computer time, games, puzzles, they can bring teacher-approved cds (one boy sings to us):up:, or just "chill". If you haven't behaved, you get an assignment at your desk and nothing else.

    I don't know if you have more than one assistant, but trade off when dealing with her. It's exhausting! Trust me, I have 2 difficult ED kids right now and they are exhausting, too.

    I'm just looking forward to that week off at Thanksgiving!

    Good Luck!:)
     
  9. dstanley89

    dstanley89 Rookie

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    Nov 2, 2007

    I know that it can be frustrated to have a student scream for hours. But, a kid who has been given into for probably years isn't going to stop screaming in one day just because she doesn't get what she wants. I have worked with many many students with behavior problems. I think you really need to keep ignoring her even if it means a week of three hour scream sessions. If you ignore her consistently she WILL learn that it won't get her anywhere! I can almost guarantee that with being consistent you will see the 3 hours getting shorter and shorter.

    REALLY.... keep ignoring her!!! You have to even if it is hard. This is an escape behavior and you need to extinct it.
     
  10. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Nov 2, 2007

    I didn't ignore my student completely because my student also used it to avoid the work. He would become frustrated but rather than communicating that he would blow up and we wouldn't always know why especially since he blew up over a lot of things. We got very firm (and structured). If he started, we told him to move out immediately (meaning to a separate part of the classroom). It took us a bit to get him to physically move. We had to use very firm body language to make it happen. I had to be semi intimidating even because he always looked like he was about to lose control and physically start lashing since his arms would be flailing. After I was able to get him to move without resorting to this (as much), then I graduated to making him watch while he was in the removed spot. Just because he threw the temper tantrum didn't mean he wasn't still responsible for what goes on in class. I always reminded him verbally that when he cooperates he will be able to come back. If I didn't he got it in his head that it was forever and he would have a bigger meltdown. This seemed to calm him. About half way through the year this behavior went dramatically down. If he started, I moved it. If he was playing a game, he lost the priveledge to play it and like fratbrats I wasn't sympathetic. The other part of the equation is when he did even slightly well I praised the heck out of him. He naturally preferred this. He realized I didn't hate him. In fact it was the opposite. I cared about him deeply. Along with that, I had to teach him throughout the year how to communicate in the most effective way. After his meltdown if I found out what the source of it was, I would talk with him a few minutes and tell him how next time he could do it better. He truly was lacking some of these skills. I was careful not to let that become an attention thing though.
     

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