The Child Who is Being Disruptive

I am repeatedly asked by religious educators and teachers what to do with a child who is so disruptive the safely of the other children is in jeopardy. I wish there was an easy answer to this question?  I have found that sometimes the disruptive behavior does not actually pose a threat to the other children, it just makes them uncomfortable.  Sometimes, there is need for concern.  Obviously if the harmful behavior continues after the child has been warned, then he or she will need to be removed with the understanding it is for his or her and the other children’s safety.  The child needs to hear that no-one is giving up on them and that all will be done to work with them for their return.

Before the child returns, there are many things that need to happen.    If there is not one in place, the children and teachers will need to develop a “Covenant of Behavior” with consequences to not following the covenant.  The expectations of behavior should be stated positively such as: listen while someone is talking, respect privacy, etc.  The child who is being disruptive may need to be placed on a separate behavioral contract signed by the child, the teachers, and the Director of Religious Education.  The child could be assigned a mentor/buddy in which case the mentor/buddy would also need to sign the contract.

Be aware that the disruptive behavior may be aggravated by their disability and could be minimized or eliminated with an appropriate accommodation.  For example, a boy with Asperger’s is having difficulty with being over-stimulated in the RE class and suddenly throws whatever object is close at hand, potentially hitting another child. A possible accommodation would be for him to leave the room to find a quiet space in order to calm down.  An aid or mentor/buddy could help him understand the triggers of frustration before they escalate to throwing an object.  This will only work if the child has been working on this accommodation in school or at home.

Whatever is worked out with the child, it is essential that the other children be aware what is happening. Not talking to children about the disruptive and odd behavior of another child is like not talking about the elephant in the middle of the room.  This provides a wonderful opportunity for a class on differences. We are all different in many ways and sometimes we need accommodations in order to be the best we can be.  Children can talk about how they feel they are different and that all differences are part of being human and offer opportunities for meaningful interaction.  The child who is being disruptive should be part of this discussion if they can advocate for themselves.  If they cannot, then they will need to know that the discussion is occurring and that their disability will be explained to the other children so they will understand. Sometimes the parent of the special needs child can do this.  This is a perfect opportunity for fostering tolerance of others.

Categories Tips for Inclusion for Churches | Tags: | Posted on April 10, 2007

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