Activity: Observing the Do’s and Don’ts

Activity: Observing the Do’s and Don’ts

childminder and toddlers

In the scenario below, you will read about an interaction featuring:

  • Richard, the mental health consultant,
  • Sandra, the classroom teacher, and
  • Lisa, the classroom teacher’s assistant

After reading the scenario, you will find a check-list of practices associated with the consultative stance, and be given the opportunity to assess whether or not the practices had been employed, not employed, or somewhat employed by those depicted.

* * *

Richard had come on board as a consultant at 1-2-3 Head Start, as soon as the contract for consultation services between the Head Start program director and the local mental health center director had been negotiated and signed. He was eager to get started and involved with the teachers, children, and parents. After a brief introduction at an all-staff meeting, the program director met with Richard to describe some immediate concerns. The director asked Richard to spend the rest of his day observing Ms. Sandra’s classroom and a child named Andrew, whose behavior had become increasingly disruptive and aggressive. Sensing the director’s urgency, Richard agreed to visit Sandra’s classroom that very afternoon.

Richard went to Sandra’s classroom, reintroduced himself, and explained that he understood that they had urgent concerns about Andrew’s behavior and that the director had asked him to observe him in class. Sandra looked a bit uncertain, but nodded her agreement about concerns for Andrew. Richard said, “I’m sure that you have a lot of your own observations and knowledge to share, but I’ll make my own observations first and then we can talk.” Sandra suggested that it might be helpful to observe Andrew first thing in the morning when he had the most difficulties. Richard nodded, but since he was already there, Sandra showed Richard where he might sit to make his observation.

Sandra went back to leading the classroom in their afternoon activities, glancing at Richard from time to time. The children were curious and peeked at him initially, but then were engaged in their activities. Andrew seemed distracted during “table time,” and kept getting out of his seat, disturbing his neighbors, and sometimes poking or pinching those sitting next to him.

As the children transitioned to another activity, Richard intercepted Sandra and briefly said, “I can see your concerns about Andrew and would like to talk with you and your teacher’s aide on my next visit. What time would be best for you?” Sandra suggested they meet during nap time — but noted that Lisa, the teacher’s aide would have to stay with the children while they met. Richard said, “Nap time tomorrow, I’ll see you then,” and left the room.

The next day, Richard appeared at nap time to meet with Sandra. He restated the concerns expressed by the program director and inquired if she had the same concerns or others about Andrew. Sandra said that she was concerned about his behavior, but felt that some of his behaviors fell into the typical range for his age. The poking and pinching were difficult to manage and many parents of the other children were concerned about their own children being pinched or hurt and had expressed these concerns to her and the program director.

Richard empathized with Sandra’s concerns about Andrew in the classroom, the concerns of the parents of other children, and the concern from her program director. Richard then described his observation of Andrew from the day before and asked Sandra if what he observed matched her own observations over time. Sandra agreed, restating that it would be important for Richard to see Andrew first thing in the morning when his behavior was more difficult.

Richard asked Sandra how she understood or made sense of Andrew’s behavior and the differences she noticed over time and at different times of day. Sandra provided her knowledge of Andrew’s family situation and her own observations, but could not say why she thought Andrew behaved this way.

Richard asked how Sandra has been dealing with Andrew’s behavior and she described several strategies she had tried with only limited success. Richard acknowledged her skills and decision making based on what she had tried so far. He inquired about what she might be willing to try next and issues to consider in managing her classroom.

Upon hearing more information from Sandra, Richard suggested that Andrew may have ADHD or attention difficulties and the more aggressive poking and pinching could be signs of poor impulse control when frustrated. Sandra wasn’t sure, but was interested in what to try next.

Richard suggested that Lisa, the teacher’s aide, might sit next to Andrew during table time to help him focus, and both Lisa and Sandra could teach Andrew to “do turtle” — stop, think, and use his words to express his feelings and choose more effective behaviors.

Sandra asked Richard to be more specific and meet with her and Lisa after the children left for the day to go over exactly what they should do for Andrew. Richard agreed and said he would also provide some written materials about helping children “do turtle.”

Richard, Sandra, and Lisa began to meet regularly as Richard helped them learn about the intervention and working effectively with Andrew. The next week, Richard met with Sandra and Lisa to review the information he had sent to them and clarify the intervention plan.

Sandra and Lisa were willing to give it a try, but expressed uncertainty, saying that it might be difficult for them to be consistent in the midst of all the classroom activities and the needs of other children. Richard explained the intervention and reviewed all the material with them. He demonstrated the technique during their meeting, and then spent time in the classroom modeling the technique with Andrew. He also spent time observing Sandra and Lisa using the technique and gave them feedback during their meetings. All along, he assured them that he was confident that they could learn and use “do turtle” successfully. To encourage them, he shared his own experience of learning and using the technique himself in working with individual children with good success, and agreed to meet with them after a week of trying the intervention to see how things were going.

When Richard met with Sandra and Lisa again, he asked them how things were going with Andrew. They said that they both felt more comfortable with the intervention, but worried that they were still trying to get it right. Richard assured them they would get more comfortable with more practice and provided additional coaching. When Sandra described a poking and pinching event where it was difficult to help Andrew “do turtle”, Richard again assured them that Andrew would make progress over time and reminded them of times when Andrew was able to “do turtle” and change his behavior.

* * *

Previous Next Module
This product was developed [in part] under grant number 1H79SM082070-01 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The views, policies and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of SAMHSA or HHS.