Warp Drive

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Psychoeducation: The First Grade

I recently discovered my IEP papers from elementary school and was quite shocked by some of the things I found. I was always a relatively average child according to everyone I knew and spoke to, but as I entered Kindergarten and then Grade 1, I began to exhibit serious emotional problems. I have very few memories from this time, but I do recall being reminded by my parents of a few incidents. One of which left a custodian hospitalized. The following stories come from the staff of Orchard Dale Elementary the month of and month following Easter, 1989. I was six years old. I must warn everyone, it is quite intense!

I am sharing these stories in an effort to show I have nothing to hide. I made some serious mistakes as a child, more severe than most children, but I am certainly not the only one who ever gave in to impulsive actions or judged others before they knew all the facts. If we are to truly become better people, we need to focus on the strengths of others, not their weaknesses. I wish I could comfort the people in these stories. Chances are, however, they would not remember me. It was twenty-seven years ago, after all.


Michael seems to have periods when his behavior is manageable and periods when he is completely beyond normal controls. For example, on March 1st and 2nd, although his general behavior was disruptive and unacceptable for the classroom, he did settle down when removed to a quiet room, and on March 3rd, he actually exhibited appropriate behavior both at an assembly and in the class.

The following week, beginning March 6th, he appeared more disassociated from the very start, withdrawing during a class discussion of birthdays. That week, he talked to his backpack quite a bit, and apparently, it answered him and caused some disruption by flying about the room. By Wednesday, he was back to knocking his desk over and throwing things. He often wonders aloud, "How did that happen?" after he has thrown or knocked something over, as if he completely disassociates himself from his actions. By Friday, he was so disruptive and behaving so inappropriately for class that he spent most of his two hours out of the classroom. (Michael's usual behavior pattern is such that he needs to be removed from the classroom to a quiet place on a daily basis. The behaviors noted here are more significant than his usual pattern.)

The following Monday was the first day of his staying an additional half-hour, with his aide arriving 1/2 hour later than he did. During the first 15 minutes he was in class, he moved his desk into an aisle creating a "dead end" (his phrase), ran around the room tipping over chairs and turning desks, ran the opposite direction righting things, and ran around the room again tipping over more chairs and desks and throwing stacks of papers to the floor. He spent the rest of the half-hour in the office waiting for his aide. She and the principal spent the next hour trying to get Michael to sit quietly and be ready for school before they gave up and sent him home. In the words of his aide, Edith Ridenauer: "He has spent 1-1/2 hours roaming, running, yelling, knocking things over... He said, 'Now I'm back. What happened?' Yet he can tell exactly what he did."

That same week, Michael either threw over his desk or attempted to every day, shouted or screamed in the class and the office on numerous occasions, and on March 16th, threw his shoes in the class hitting other children, and kicked at the aide and me as we restrained him. That day I wrote, "Michael is exhibiting unpredictable, violent behavior in the classroom to the point that I feel he represents a real danger to the other children." This was not the first violent episode he has had, but it is the first I personally witnessed. The next day, he apparently had shifted gears, and he wrote a very good 3-sentence story along with the rest of the class.

The first day after Easter vacation, he was very much out of control (but so were many of the other children). For the remainder of that week and into the next, Michael exhibited basically manageable behavior, and we even had 2 days when he remained in the classroom for his entire 2-hour schedule. Even that week was marred, however, by violent episodes on Tuesday when he attempted to pick up and throw aside a child in our class and again that morning when without provocation he attacked a 3-year-old in the office, pulling his hair and kicking at him. This is a very general summary of Michael's behavior during March. It is by no means complete or all-inclusive.

-Marianne E. Scanlon

March 29th, 1989

Michael was observed in the classroom on 3/29/89. He sat at his desk with his feet pulled up, laughed and acted silly, while working with the one-to-one behavioral aide. At one point he held his ears and screamed for a minute. Also, during an assignment, he yelled out "Heh! Where does this go?!" He was restless, impulsive and did not appear to make an emotional connection with staff or peers.

The pupil was interviewed face to face at the school on 3/29/89. Michael is a small pale six year old caucasian male who was appropriately groomed and attired. While walking with him on the playground, he started crawling and meowing like a cat. After that, he moved about quickly. He was active and impulsively moved from one subject to another. He had a flat affect and did not seem to connect emotionally with this writer or people whom we talked about. He did mention that he had a friend, but didn't elaborate. At one point, he obsessively asked this writer many questions, eg, "Where is your car?", "How did you get to school?", "Who gave you directions?", "Who did you talk to?" He appeared to have difficulty in processing verbal information and he seemed to want to operate within a rigid structure. In summary, there were significant signs of attention deficit and hyperactivity. There were no signs of depression. There were signs of bizarre behavior and by recent reports, he has aggressive impulses. He appears to have a developmental delay in receptive language ability.

April 4th, 1989

Michael continues to demonstrate severe emotional disturbance within the school setting. Several interventions have been attempted including: Resource Specialist Support, Learning Handicapped Special Day Class Placement, several behavior contracts, parent conferences, shortened school day, Diagnostic School referral, referral to the Department of Mental Health (in addition to several other counseling referrals for parent), counseling provided at the school site, physical restraint when needed (when he has been a danger to others), a one to one aid to work directly with Michael during his entire school day, and several observations have been conducted by the staff at the regional level in consideration for non-public school placement. In addition, several Individual Educational Placement meetings have been held this school year for Michael. Another IEP meeting will be held at the regional level on April 19th, 1989.

Michael's emotional disturbance appears to be very severe. He continues to be a danger to others. Although he does not seem to be in control of his actions, he frequently attempts to harm people within the school setting. He has kicked several adult employees, has thrown children out of his way, has thrown objects within the classroom such as scissors, staplers and chairs, and has attacked children with no provocation. This behavior is reportedly the same at home as well, where he has hit the baby to where the mother had to bring the baby to the hospital to be certain there was no permanent damage and frequently hits small children in public, so that she is now unable to bring him to the supermarket for example.

Michael has very unpredictable behavior yet he seems to have an extreme need for consistency. He needs to follow the same schedule, sit in the same place, and appears to have several rituals which must be followed. He needs to know that someone is in control. He often mentions blowing up, exploding, etc. He is very creative in his stories and drawings and continually expresses a fear of the unknown. He is very disturbed by fire, rain, wind, etc. For example: while drawing, he wanted to draw rain and his comments approximated "Oh my God, it's raining. There is too much rain. I can't stop the rain. Will it ever stop raining. What will I do if it keeps raining?" [Note to past-self: Draw a boat] Despite my attempts to assure him that in his picture he could control the rain, he seems genuinely disturbed that this was beyond his control.

Michael does not appear to have contact with reality at all times. He has an imaginary friend named "Haugau" who he acknowledged is imaginary and explained what that means yet chooses to involve Haugau in his activities. He explained that Haugau is real only when he explodes, but that he can put himself back together again. When trying to draw a picture of his class at his initiation, Michael was unable to name any of the students in his class (after 6 months in this room), yet drew circles with two lines stemming from them for people and stated that the other kids he could think of in his class were Haugau and Steve (his infant brother). He appeared to be sincere in this explanation. In the past couple of weeks, however, Michael has begun to interact with other children on the playground and has engaged in activities with one other boy in the classroom.

Mrs. Haley has expressed on several occasions that Michael is beyond her control.

April 28th, 1989

During the entire morning (8:45 - 10:30), Michael was EXTREMELY quiet. He laid his head on the desk and closed his eyes a lot. He was still unwilling to cooperate. He tore his dictation papers up so he wouldn't have to finish. He wrote his letters with his eyes closed. He stretched and pushed papers off the desk. Quieter resistance.

When he indicated an interest in a fourth piece of paper, I told him he could have it if he was willing to write the words on it. He wrote ten of the words. His letters were printed poorly, not following the line. He practiced the three he misspelled and then wrote them correctly from dictation. He is not making his repetitive sounds, chewing his nails, picking his nose or jumping around in place.

He turned his head to the left and became very insecure. He said, "I hurt my head." He looked very scared. He immediately got up from his desk and sat very close to me. The pain was over his left ear toward the back. It lasted about one or two minutes. He then sat back at his desk. He seemed disoriented for the remaining five or ten minutes of class.

-Edith Ridenauer

Indeed, I did not remain at Orchard Dale Elementary. As my colossal mess of a first grade winded to a close in May of 1989, I was removed and sent to Rossier School where I would spend the next year and a half before attending the Diagnostic School. I will look into sharing later stories if and when I have contact with reality.

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