Help SED Students: Troubled Minds Worsen During Troubled Times Like Hurricane Harvey

 

teacher classroom management blog

 

Troubled Minds Worsen
During Troubled Times:
How to Help Emotionally Disturbed Students

 
 

 

studentIf you find the current time period to be a turbulent time, consider the impact of the commotion on students with troubled minds. The impact can be considerable. Given the monster storm, Harvey, that is currently devastating a significant section of the United States, this article is meant to be timely help for anyone who works in the affected region. The article should still be relevant for anyone who works with severely emotionally disturbed (SED) students, or youngsters who struggle with anxiety, trauma, depression and fear.

Hello from Youth Change Workshops Director, Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. In this article, I’m going to cherry pick some of the very best interventions for severely emotionally disturbed  students and other populations who can be dramatically affected by turbulent times. If you want more than the handful of strategies included here, come to our Portland, Oregon Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Youth Workshop on October 12-13, 2017. In that professional development workshop, you will learn 200 more strategies to help troubled students, as well as those who act out, are bullies, disrespectful, truant and failing academically. Financial aid scholarships for the live workshop are available by making a quick phone call to us at 800.545.5736.

A quick shout out to Texas and Louisiana teachers, counselors and others affected by Hurricane Harvey:
We will welcome you free to our October, 2017 Portland Breakthrough Strategies Workshop, without any charge, if you are a teacher, counselor or other  youth professional from Texas or Louisiana with a work  address in the region gravely affected by the hurricane.
Email us your name and contact information to sign up for free. It is our attempt to give back to a region that has supported our workshops for decades.

Troubled and SED students often have substantial difficulty succeeding in school even during the best of times. During more difficult times, their performance and attendance can plummet. Here are some of our best methods to help emotionally disturbed, traumatized, depressed and fragile students who are struggling more as the world around them gets more turbulent.

 

help traumatized studentsStrategies to Help SED Students and Others

Affected By Turbulent Times

 

Become a Landmark

Being a troubled or severely emotionally disturbed (SED) student is kind of like riding a merry-go-round. For the child or teen, the world is kind of spinning around. To help, become a landmark so that the child doesn’t feel so adrift and disoriented. You can become the place to turn when the child’s anxiety, fear, angst or life events become overwhelming. As you become a reliable point of calm in the storm, the student may eventually learn to extrapolate that calm to other parts of their life. Be sure to specifically make these points with the student so they understand that yes, their world can seem to spin out of control, but you have to look for a place to shelter from the storm, and that place can be you and your classroom or office.

Look for the Helpers

Mr. Rogers, the TV children’s program host from years ago, always used to say in his most soothing voice: During times of chaos, tragedy and catastrophe: Look for the Helpers. It was a genius idea. By helping upset, troubled and disturbed students focus on the one part of the situation that is positive, it can reduce their fear, anxiety and trepidation. For emotionally disturbed students and other youngsters who struggle, the more their emotions are within a tolerable range, the more they can focus on school work. The reality is that all students will need the life skills taught in school, and that includes those who are living with violence, a weather-related catastrophe, family problems, mental illness and other life challenges. Assisting your SED students and others to self-soothe will reduce the amount of suffering they experience while potentially freeing up additional energy for school.

 

Find Their “Salt”

For troubled students, it can be hard to care about or work in school. The old saying that “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” is the perfect illustration. However, what would get that horse to drink? Salt. See if you can find what is the student’s “salt.” It could be getting them excited about a career goal that requires education. It could be having them read about Maya Angelou and others who rose above tragedy and trauma to greatness. It could be helping them escape the world through music, poetry, art or literature. It can be using their exposure to fire fighters and police, to learn about becoming a public safety worker when an adult. If you can believe that all students have things they care about, your are much more likely to help students to identify those valued things, and then you can use those things to convince the child that education is a way out of the pain– and the best and fastest way forward to a better future.

 

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Uncontrollable, Unmotivated and SED Students

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troubled studentTroubled Minds? Meet Mindfulness

By now, the Mindfulness “revolution” has probably reached your part of the world. Mindfulness is the ideal intervention strategy to offer students with SED, anxiety problems, depression and similar. One of the key elements of mindfulness is to help the student stay focused on the present. In this current moment, the child is safe, has been fed, and is warm and dry. Help the students to focus on what is happening right now and to avoid worrying about the past and future. That can sound like a tough sell but you can also use meditation techniques to make that goal more achievable. Meditation can consist of having the child breathe slowly, eyes closed (if willing), while focusing on nothing but the breath for just a few minutes. Countless studies document that meditation can reduce specific problem feelings like anxiety, fear and worry.

Help Others

Studies often document that when children and teens in pain turn their attention to helping others, they feel better themselves. So, this is the perfect time to have your students create and implement a project to benefit those affected by Hurricane Harvey. This effort can become the perfect way to teach your fragile and troubled students that “helping others helps you too.”

Bloom Where You’re Planted

For students whose difficulty appears to be long term, teach them to “bloom where they’re planted.” For example, if a child is likely going to remain in difficult conditions in the Hurricane Harvey flood zone for a while, teach the student that they can go through the experience the “hard way” or the “easier way.” They can be miserable the entire time or they can look for anything positive. For example, the student may miss their home that is now unlivable, but they may really like living with their cousins and having someone to play with all the time. Teach students to keep looking for that positive among the negatives and once they find it, to focus on it. This intervention strategy can help some students avoid sinking into prolonged, deep depressions. Many recent neuroplasticity studies have established that it is possible through effective thought management to reduce the amount of depression a child experiences while building up the brain pathways that focus on the positive. Physical activity combined with talking, thought management and mindfulness is a potent combination that can definitely help over time. Without  these evidence-based techniques, students are statistically quite likely to continue to struggle emotionally and to worsen over time.

 

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    teachermissYou have students who struggle. We have solutions for students who struggle…so your job doesn’t have to be so difficult. We have cutting-edge strategies to manage group and classroom management problems like behavior disorders, trauma, disrespect, bullying, emotional issues, withdrawal, substance abuse, tardiness, cyberbullying, delinquency, work refusal, defiance, depression, Asperger’s, ADHD and more.

     

    Schedule the Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Workshop to come to your site. This is the one professional development inservice that produces results, results, results. Call 1.800.545.5736 now. This surprisingly affordable inservice also makes a terrific fund raiser. College credit and 10 professional development clock hours are available. Your staff will finally have the more effective, real-world tools they need to work with today’s challenging, difficult youth.

     

    Contact us now, and begin solving your worst “kid problems” today. Call 1.800.545.5736, or email.

     

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    Library of Congress ISSN: 1526-9981 | Youth Change, Your Problem-Kid Problem-Solver
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Emotionally Disturbed Students: A How-To Guide for Teachers and Principals

 

article how to help emotionally disturbed SED students

 

Emotionally Disturbed Students:

 

A How-To Guide for Teachers and Principals

 
 

 

workshop on severely emotionally disturbed studentsTeachers, Principals and Counselors: Are you seeing more and more seriously emotionally disturbed (S.E.D.) students than ever before? The problem may not be with your perceptions. The problem may be that in fact, you are seeing more emotionally disturbed children and youth than at any time before.

Hello from Youth Change Director, Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. I'm a veteran counselor and trainer, so let me use this educational article to explain why there may be many more students struggling with S.E.D.

SEDFirst, many settings such as schools and Job Corps, are accepting youth with increasingly serious emotional problems. Second, mainstreaming has shifted many kids from sheltered or specialized settings, into mainstream classrooms, sports teams and scouting troops. Third, and perhaps most important, there may be, in fact, more and earlier serious emotional disturbances developing in children. Or, perhaps we are just getting better at noticing and identifying these problems. No one knows for sure the answer to that last one.

In late 2000, the U.S. Surgeon General formally reported that an amazing 1 in 10 children may have a serious mental health disorder. This report noted that the typical wait for severely emotionally disturbed children to get an appointment with a mental health professional was 3 to 4 months. Some communities lack children's mental health services entirely, the report also noted. This report quotes a study that indicated that many children with severe emotional problems don't gain access to proper school services until age 10. The report emphasizes that many of these severely emotionally disturbed children will ultimately wind up incarcerated, in part,  because their problems went unnoticed, or were addressed way too late. The report advocates for more mental health resources for emotionally disturbed children, and better training in children's mental health for everyone who works with youth. Those are interesting recommendations that might have a lot of impact. Sadly, these proposals don't seem to be gaining traction.

That's where we fit in. We're Youth Change Workshops and we've been talking about students' mental health for many years. From our viewpoint, here's the bottom line: If you are not a mental health professional, but you work with kids, you need to acquire a basic mental health background in order to fully understand your changing population, and to best meet their changing needs.

Youth Change can help you move towards that goal with our monthly Behavior and Classroom Management blog articles, but these brief educational posts will not give you all the detailed information you need on the myriad of mental health issues you now see every day. Be sure to consider acquiring our Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Youth Online Workshop, schedule us to present a live or online workshop at your site for your entire school faculty, or make plans to come to one of our live workshops. Any of these options can help make your job much easier, and could even some day help you save or salvage a young life.

troubled studentAcquiring more essential mental health basics will also help you know when to access help from mental health professionals. It will also give you the basic terms you need to convey what you see. There is no substitute for the expertise of a mental health worker, and if budget cuts have reduced this option at your site, that is serious. While a class like our Breakthrough Strategies Workshop can help non-mental health workers learn key basics, it is not a substitute for a veteran counselor or skilled social worker. With the incidence of severe childhood emotional problems apparently on the rise, it makes relying on that counselor, social worker, or psychologist more important than ever before.

If you are a mental health professional you may also want to consider doing a check-up on your skills too. We are always surprised at our Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Youth Workshop how many mental health professionals confuse conduct disorders and thought disorders, for example. These are two basic and essential mental health concepts for anyone who helps severely emotionally disturbed children or teens. (Ironically, thought disorder is the single mental health problem that many clinicians believe may be increasing the most in frequency– especially in young children.)

We also need more organizations like the Family Resource Centers in Kentucky. Kentucky's Family Resource Centers are located in just about every school in the state. Their staff exist only to assist the student, family, teacher, counselor or anyone involved in the child's life to help that child succeed in school, community, family and life. Sadly, most of us lack a Family Resource Center worker to turn to. Your challenge becomes: how do I still provide my service to a child with serious emotional problems? Here are a few key do's and don't's as starters, but be sure to also consider developing a plan to more thoroughly upgrade your basic mental health skills if needed:

 

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severely emotionally disturbed studentHow to Help
Severely Emotionally Disturbed Students

 

Strike the Balance


Especially in this age of widespread, mandated education performance testing, teachers can feel pressured to get students to perform and produce. But tests don't "understand" that a child has a serious emotional disturbance and make allowances– but you can. Strive to balance your school or agency's mission with the severely emotionally disturbed child's special needs. Keep the goals, but don't accomplish them at any cost.
 

When I'm Not Sure What to Do


A good general guideline for anytime that you just don't know for sure how to work with a child, is to ask the child. That child is the expert on that child. If you get no useful response, a fall-back plan is to consider what would work or not work with you if you were in that situation. You can also reverse roles and have the child offer suggestions how to help you. Alternatively, ask the child for suggestions for a friend or peer. Many of the suggestions may be ones you can use with the student.
 

But I Have to Be Fair


You may worry that if you give a troubled child extra time to complete a task, for example, that the other kids will complain that it is unfair. In the work world, bosses are required to accommodate employees' special needs from providing a ramp for a wheel chair to arranging for  a sign language interpreter. The ultimate mission of most schools and youth agencies is to prepare the child for the real world. In the real world, providing some accommodation is either legally mandated, a common courtesy, or just good sense. Most schools attempt to give a bigger desk to a bigger student, and a smaller desk to a smaller youngster. Simple human courtesy and common sense should never be viewed as unfair.
 

They Can Take It
 

Some teachers or youth professionals will tell you that the child can "take it." The truth is that you have no way of looking into a child and accurately gauging their resiliency. Since kids do not generally announce that they were beaten last night, or that they haven't eaten for two days, you don't know how fragile or strong a child actually is. You don't know whether or not a child can "take it." There is a risk that a harsh, embarrassing, or aggressive act could harm or undermine a child. While it is never okay to yell, demean or humiliate any child for any reason, it is especially true with children who are severely troubled.
 

These Children Are Manipulating the Adults


While some emotionally disturbed children are very adept at manipulation, many, perhaps most emotionally disturbed children do not manipulate at all. There are many types of emotional disturbances, and each has its own completely unique dynamic. Because an adult works differently with different types of students, tailoring methods to fit each child and that child's unique circumstances, does not mean the adult has been manipulated. It means that the adult has a sophisticated understanding of different types of youth, and has chosen the correct tools for each type of child.
 

Bonus Tip

One way to tell if you need to upgrade your mental health skills is to assess how well you can distinguish different types of mental health problems and apply varied interventions for each type. While non mental health workers can't diagnose, it is still important to be able to understand and identify the difficulties you are seeing. For example, if you do not know the difference between conduct disorder and thought disorder, that means you probably can not work effectively with youngsters with those issues. The best practice would to use completely different sets of tools with each of these two types of youngsters, something you can't do without a basic mental health foundation. The upshot: you may find "nothing" seems to work, and that safety issues abound.

 

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    Reprint or Repost This Article
     

    Bring the Breakthrough Strategies Workshop to Your Site

    Help Unmotivated, Failing, Troubled and Unmanageable Students

    teachermissYou have students who struggle. We have solutions for students who struggle…so your job doesn’t have to be so difficult. We have cutting-edge strategies to manage group and classroom management problems like behavior disorders, trauma, disrespect, bullying, emotional issues, withdrawal, substance abuse, tardiness, cyberbullying, delinquency, work refusal, defiance, depression, Asperger’s, ADHD and more.

     

    Schedule the Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Workshop to come to your site. This is the one professional development inservice that produces results, results, results. Call 1.800.545.5736 now. This surprisingly affordable inservice also makes a terrific fund raiser. College credit and 10 professional development clock hours are available. Your staff will finally have the more effective, real-world tools they need to work with today’s challenging, difficult youth.

     

    Contact us now, and begin solving your worst “kid problems” today. Call 1.800.545.5736, or email.

     

    Working with Troubled Students Doesn’t Have to be So Difficult
     


    Behavior & Classroom Management Problem-Solver Blog Articles

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    Library of Congress ISSN: 1526-9981 | Youth Change, Your Problem-Kid Problem-Solver
    http://www.youthchg.com | 1.503.982.4220 | 275 N. 3rd St; Woodburn, OR 97071
    © Copyright 2019, All Rights Reserved | Permission granted to forward magazine to others.