Posts tagged social work
Posts tagged social work
Strengths-based. Positive. We try not to say “problem.”
But right no w part of the issue is a parent who is so passive they are actually veering more toward apathetic. It’s beyond not putting their foot down in terms of discipline — they don’t follow through with processes to get the household basic needs and assistance even when they have help for all but the last piece of the process, they have no desire to be involved with the school but at the same time will not say no to suggestions of going to parent-geared activities or connecting with seeing grades on the computer. They just won’t say yes either.
Their entire demeanor could be reduced to a shrug, but they voice wanting to keep everyone together with strong feelings…sometimes. They say they feel they have no support system when other providers described to us how they have offered and given numerous supports in numerous circumstances.
Maybe part of this is learned helplessness. Maybe part is depression, though we aren’t privy to the parent’s diagnoses — and maybe I should mention the possibility of need my team mate. But what can we do to help this parent develop assertiveness when the parent is barely present while they’re there?
(If more information is needed, I can talk privately to give some more detail while still maintaining privacy of information.)
Anyone familiar with this challenge either in the school or therapy setting and have any suggestions?
In the last few weeks I’ve been told by kids, parents, or other professionals that it is my fault that a crisis is happening (parent), that my presence is what’s making a kid act up (professional), that I should be shot in the face (child); have been called unnecessary, useless, f*ggot, p*ssy, b*tch, motherf*cker, and “that girl”; have been swung at by a few different sets of small fists; and have had communication continuously ignored by a handful of people with whom we’re supposed to be working in tandem.
I have also been complimented by my supervisor, an admissions counselor, coworkers,and parents; given stickers to appreciative colleagues for themselves, not kids, and seen them hang onto them for days; have seen people overjoyedly become a permanent family, adults hug their kids and kids hug their adults; become a human chair by sitting down on a preschool circle rug for more than a minute; and watched removed and unresponsive kids get so excited over playing jenga with people that they move into jokes, laughter, and silliness.
I am very, very tired. But I love my job.
It occurs to me that I post personal life stuff specifically to another blog, but that many other folks in the #education and related communities multitask — so you end up hearing about babies, pets, spouses, cooking, utilities, transportation, adventuring, etc.
So, because I’m trying to stay awake long enough to get some progress notes done, the ask box is open to questions of the random sort for anyone who’s been following and wondering if I’m actually a human being and not a conglomeration of therapeutic androids (or who have been following long enough to know better and just feel like poking at me).
EDIT: Looks like the way the schedule just stacked up that this will be the case for the rest of the week. Ask away. I’ll have some piles to work with.
I was exhausted and nearly on a tear this morning — when it comes to my kids, hospitals can be involved, cops can be involved, unexpected relocation can be involved, reporting, etc. — and shook my fists (via text) at a friend. Who in turn via text gave me a fist bump.
Can I tell you how much that unwound me? Probably not without sounding ridiculous.
But if someone just took a long look at the professionals and gave THEM a fistbump or a high five every now and then, I can’t help but think everyone would feel the slightest bit better.
It’s part of the job. It’s part of the job. It’s part of the job. It’s part of the…
Except those are also the weeks clients go away with their families because there isn’t any school.
By the time it was noon two of my appointments for the day had canceled. And half of my caseload isn’t available for most of the week. What on earth is SUMMER going to look like?
I have a grade schooler on my client list who gets loud and violent in part due to communication difficulties. It also seems triggered by an extremely low frustration tolerance.
But especially lately it seems to be triggered particularly when they aren’t getting their way, in an effort to get others to give in. They’ve voice to two different people after the fact that they have done this to get out of programming, etc. It’s difficult to tell whether this is a conscious effort, or whether the question-and-answer has been led, but when they see that they are absolutely not going to get what it is they’re after no matter what or they are told they will, they calm down. A lot of the behavior is aimed at their parent, and sometimes at another couple of authority figures, and includes directed swearing and statements of destructive intent (“I’M GONNA BREAK ____”) followed by attempts. It’s been categorized thus far as a variety of potential difficulties with mood.
So the question that keeps bubbling up in my head is, with the targeted destruction, when does this start edging into Oppositional Defiance Disorder territory? Thoughts?
First, let me promise you — however you get there, however long it takes, whether you get through community college and then transfer or go the online route or take a year off and do something solidifying and come back to a bachelor’s program from scratch or go back after a decade of other all valuable life experiences, you will get to where you want to be wherever you decide you want to be. And every route to that degree is valid.
It took me two different college programs and a City Year to get my BA, and then another two years of “failed” job experiments (none failures, all experiences) to realize I wanted to get into therapy. I went into my first school knowing I wanted to help people but not knowing how; I thought maybe I wanted to be a diplomat or a hostage negotiator. (A lot of the work I do now does sometimes feel a little like both.) When I had worked my way through a half a dozen declared majors in under two years and realized in the midst of a breakdown that I was on comparative literature and had no idea what I wanted to do with myself, I took a hard look at my loves and my options and joined City Year in Little Rock, AR, half a country away and completely out of my comfort zone. And I fell in love with working with the “problem” kids, and thought, “I want to do this forever.” So for another half a year after that dawdled while thinking I was pursuing other life goals before a teacher I was babysitting for recommended my now-alma mater when she heard I wanted to teach. I jumped at the direction.
When I got there I needed a second major/school within a year. I had no idea what that was going to be. I’m being totally honest when I tell you that the psychology part started because I was required to take a child psych class and just happened to really like the professor. So I took another class of hers and found that the content was actually far more interesting than my 500-person textbook-provided-powerpoint Intro lecture at the first college had ever been, and that I connected very personally to a lot of the material. So I took another, plus one of her wife’s classes, and before I knew it I had declared a psych major with the education and thought it would be one of those things that I love LEARNING about, but wouldn’t pursue, because teaching. Except as I did more work in classrooms, I realized that I cared far more about helping the kids with their socioemotional difficulties than their academic ones — not because academics weren’t important, because I would and may still absolutely pursue a resource room/academic intervention position in a heartbeat, but because I saw the way these things affected the students and, moreso than math or reading, this was what preoccupied myself and them.
I ended up in another AmeriCorps program after school, because teaching in my area was highly competitive in a small location churning out a lot of teachers. I left the term halfway through because past the desk work, all I wanted was to do what the social worker was doing for the kids at the drop-in center that was part of our organization, and got a position with a Boys and Girls Club in a small town with some big challenges for the kids who lived there. And more often than helping with homework, I ended up as mentor and counselor, working on craft projects and anger management and communication and social skills.
So in the gap between that position (part-time, not enough for rent) and where I’m at now, I sat at another desk job daydreaming about the most important things to me at that position had been, and had that epiphany, and started looking at positions that would use the psychology piece of my degree until I landed where I am now.
And even though the reasons that spurred the dual BA were a little shallow at the time, I have to tell you — it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. So please don’t hesitate to ask more questions.
Sometimes, throughout the day, when said day involves kiddos screaming and swearing and throwing things at me and telling me in various ways how much they don’t want me anywhere near them, I think, multiple times, maybe even in the car on the way home, maybe even in the driveway and on the walk around the cold wet town to cool off a little, “These kids really hated me today.”
That’s a thought that, day after day, makes you think maybe you chose the wrong job.
But I get upstairs and I get into my warm apartment and think about the fact that I’m able to think about these feelings, and metacognition is a big deal. And I breathe, and think instead, or at least try to think, “___ had a really rough day today.”
And my god, does it turn the feeling around.
Because then, I think of how tired that must have made THEM. How sad and frustrated they must be feeling when they have so little control. And how I went into this job specifically to help the kiddos who/when they feel that way.
So far, it’s been working.
I wish I could have taken a picture, but the kiddo I did this with has a penchant for grabbing at electronics and I couldn’t risk it. Today we played reverse-“stacking tower”. Kiddo had some wooden blocks in their storage (I do home-visits) that resembled the skinny wooden blocks. They were very wound up, were climbing their shelves, and love blocks and that game in particular as a means to focus and self-control.
So I gave them a challenge — let’s see how high we could build a tower by very carefully stacking the skinny blocks, criss-cross, one atop the other. If it fell we’d keep trying. We did that for almost ten minutes straight and four or five towers up and down.
Single-block stacking took a little more awareness of balance and weight than my kiddo has right now, and we wanted something more positively reinforcing of all that effort, so we tried something else. We tried putting down two at a time, a bit like the old Lincoln Logs. It meant they had to watch and be aware of when I was putting my block down, so we could counterbalance. It meant they couldn’t just drop the blocks on — and when they started, I reminded them, whispering, that we had to really set it down and feel it touch the block below it, or it might topple. It meant they had to move a little slowly and really make an effort to feel that connection, to focus, and to examine the details.
The kiddo was able to focus on this process, without any direction to do so beyond their own interest, for almost half an hour of trial and error. We ran out of blocks. They started finding other objects in the room to try to pile on until it finally fell over. The kiddo got so into it that they even pretended to scream when it toppled, instead of actually screaming, and proceeded to whisper and direct me in trying it all over again. They laughed instead of kicking or breaking things. They didn’t throw anything at anybody or lock themselves in a room.
Kiddo wants to do this again with more blocks. I’m super proud of them, and recommending the activity for other folks working with impulsive kids who like to build or appreciate a challenge in teamwork.
(For reference, kiddo abovehas such severe impulsivity that their behaviors required safety/crisis plans at home, at school, and at aftercare. Granted, that describes about half my caseload right now, as I seem to be building up an accidental focus/reputation; when some of my other kiddos move away from more of their aggressive/violent incidents, I’d love to try this one with some of them, too.)