Too Much to Handle: Learning To Ask For Help At School

Just over a year ago, Travis was being kicked out of school on a daily basis. A seven-year-old with a lot of aggression, he was sent home every morning for hitting, kicking or even biting his teachers.

The local school board had done everything that they could; Travis needed a different type of intervention. He was transferred to Applewood Academy, a school created to ensure kids who need special attention have the therapeutic help they need as well as access to high-quality education.

Travis didn’t know how to communicate when he was getting angry,” explained Angela Cross, who leads the elementary program for Applewood. “He was very reactive to everything, not only his frustration with learning but other types of stimuli, too.”

Cross recalls that at first, Travis spent much of his day in one of two therapeutic rooms at the school. These rooms are quiet and separated from other kids, to provide a safe environment for kids to diffuse their aggression.

“His behaviour was too disruptive to do any school work, and he also wasn’t able to participate at recess or in other group activities,” Cross said.

New school year, a new beginning

Last September started with much of the same behaviour. However, Cross says this past school year has made a big difference for Travis; they’ve learned what triggers his frustration and have helped him learn skills to manage it.

“Where before Travis may have thrown his book or run out of the room, he’s learning to stop and ask for help,” Cross said. “He can only focus for a short period of time, but we reward his positive behaviour and achievements with rewards. He loves technology, so if he meets his learning goals for the day he can earn time on a computer or iPad.”

While he’s reached a grade two level of math he still needs to work on his academics. However, his aggressiveness has decreased, which makes it easier for him to focus on school and participate in class activities.

“We used to have incidents almost daily, now we can go a week or even two,” Cross noted. “Part of this change may be because he’s older, but he’s also able to recognize the things that trigger his frustration and use the strategies he’s learned to cope.

“Sometimes he needs a verbal reminder to manage his behaviour, but he’s usually able to remember on his own.”

Looking ahead to next year

One of the goals at Applewood is to give kids the skills they need to return to the public school system, something that may be possible for Travis in the near future.

“We hope to help Travis manage his aggression well enough that he can return to public school,” Cross said. “Our goal is to transition him back to a special class, one specifically to support kids with behavioral disorders, by the end of the next school year.”

Learn more about Applewood

At Applewood Academy, we offer a supportive program for kids with emotional or behavioural challenges that combines therapeutic treatment with high-quality education. For more information about our program, please contact us directly or connect with us on Twitter.

* The names and images in this article have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.*