Behavior Disorders In Students -Tony's Story
What Does A Behavioral Disorder Look Like?
I have been teaching for fifteen years. It's a job that I absolutely love and will do until they force me away kicking and screaming.Since I teach special education, I have had the privilege of teaching some very wonderful children...some with some very horrible home lives.
Tony was one of those wonderful children - only no one gave him a chance to show just how wonderful he really was...
How He Learned To Become a Behavior Problem
Tony was a fifth grader when I met him. He was being eased back into a regular education school from a school for children with serious behavior issues. Until he was two years old, he lived with his mother. She was a prostitute and often brought her "work" home with her. Sometimes Tony was in the same room with his mother, and sometimes those men abused Tony.
When Tony was two, his mother was arrested and Tony was placed in foster care. In the next several years, Tony lived in a variety of homes, each one even worse than the one before. I won't say all the terrible things that happened to this young man, but I will say he went through a lot in the ten short years before I knew him.
What is a Behavioral Disorder
A behavioral disorder is any disorder which changes the behavior of a person over time. The behavior becomes such that is no longer acceptable in the social arena.
There are many types of behavioral disorders - and different treatments for each. This is just a partial list of some behavioral disorders:
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD)
- Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED - This is one that Tony was diagnosed with.)
- Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)
- Passive Aggressive Personality Disorder (PAPD)
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD - Another that Tony was diagnosed with.)
There are many other behavioral disorders. They range from mild to wild - and all need specific treatments for the disorder. To find out if you or a loved one have a behavioral disorder, call your family physician to seek advice.
How He Came To My Special Needs Classroom
Because of the situations in the homes he lived in, Tony learned to fight back. He fought and yelled and threw things at his foster parents. He tried to set one home on fire. He ran away several times, once bringing a younger foster sibling with him. He mouthed off to anyone who tried to give him any directions. He had no manners at all. He thought it was fun to tease others.
As I said before, he came to my class after spending time at a facility for severe behavior issues. Tony wasn't the only one in my class that year, of course. That year there were ten students from first grade through fifth grade. One young girl had been in a violent car accident and suffered a traumatic brain disorder. It was hard for her to walk. Another student was a little girl that was taught to lie about anything that happened at home, even if it was something good. She wasn't allowed to talk about the bruises that covered her body. The other students were there for a variety of learning differences. All were sweet kids who tried to do their best at school.
Trouble Often Finds The Student With a Behavior Disorder
Tony knew from the start that he was different than the others. He was extremely bright, working at a level two grades above where he should have been. He wasn't used to someone caring about him. He wasn't used to other students wanting to be his friend. He wasn't used to younger students looking up to him. He didn't know how to handle it. He reverted to what he knew best. He yelled and screamed and threw things, although he always made sure the younger students were out of his way. He tried to make sure they didn't get hurt. It didn't always work though. He was suspended for three days when he threw his book across the room and the girl with the TBI got into his way. It hit her hard enough that she lost her balance and fell down.
Tony Starts To Open Up About His Abuse
After that incident, the other students were sent to another special education teacher for awhile. It was just Tony and I for most of the day. He even had to eat his lunch in the classroom. During this time, we began to talk. He began to open up about his life before I met him. He talked about his mother and the younger half brothers that he had only seen pictures of. He told me of faraway memories of being held and loved by his grandmother.
He started telling me these things to see if he could shock me. When I didn't show shock, he just kept opening up. He began to trust me. He began to work harder and get all of his assignments finished. He sat in his seat and asked permission to get up - raised his hand to use the restroom and ask other questions. He was beginning to lose some of his anger. I had great hopes for his progress.
More Trouble For Tony
After a few weeks, Tony came running into my classroom from the bus. The principal was on his tail, trying to get him to stop running. Tony ran into a corner of the room and sat on the floor behind my desk. The principal walked up to him, trying to find out what was wrong. Tony pushed my chair towards her. The principal backed up, realizing that anything she did would just make it harder for him to calm down. She asked if I had it under control, and when I told her I did, she left the room.
At first, I ignored Tony. I wanted to give him a chance to get under control. He was crying and tearing things off of the wall by my desk. He opened and then slammed close all of the drawers on my desk. After several minutes, I could see him begin to calm down. I walked over to him and asked if I could talk to him. He didn't answer, but moved over so I could sit next to him on the floor. We just sat there for a few minutes, not saying anything. I asked him what was wrong. He still didn't want to talk, so I began asking questions. I told him he could just nod his head yes or no.
"Did something happen on the bus?" He shook his head "no."
"Did the principal make you mad?" He shook his head again.
"Did something happen at home?" He nodded "yes."
I asked several other questions: Did he get in trouble at home? No. Were his siblings picking on him? No. Did his foster mom say something to upset him? No.
He began crying again and mumbled something. I didn't hear him, so I asked him to repeat it. This time he yelled "She don't want me no more! She don't love me. She never has!"
I thought he was talking about his foster mother, and asked if he was.
"No!" he yelled. "I'm talking about my momma! She don't want me no more. She wants me to be adopted and never come home again! She don't love me...I shoulda known." With this he stood up and ran toward the classroom door. Since I was already standing, I got to the door first. I stood between him and the door so he wouldn't run away.
Tony Was Sent Back To The Behavioral Control Unit
"You gotta move Miss," he said, crying. "I gotta get outta here!" As he said this, he swung his arm toward the door. Because I was in the way, he ended up hitting me in the face as he did it. At the exact time the principal was walking back into the room to find out how he was. She saw him hit me and assumed it had been done deliberately. Instead of asking what was happening, she called to a teacher in the hall to call security and to call the police. Tony heard that and pushed his way out of the classroom. He ran through the hallways for several minutes and then just melted down in front of the office. By that time security was in the building, and this big, muscular officer grabbed Tony's arm and pulled him into the principal's office. I wasn't allowed to come in, and the principal told her version of the story. The police came in, and Tony was led out the front door of the school with his hands cuffed behind his back. It was the last I saw Tony.
I was asked later if I wanted to press charges. I told the story the way it happened and said no, I didn't want to. The principal said that she had seen what had happened, and since it happened in her school, she would press charges. Tony was then taken to the juvenile detention center. His foster mother gave up custody of him, saying that she didn't want to put up with a juvenile offender. Tony eventually ended back up in the facility for severe behaviors again.
I found out the story that Tony had been trying to tell me was that his natural mother had given up custody of him, and had released him for adoption. He just didn't know how to tell me without getting angry. I firmly believe that he did not hit me on purpose, and though he did deserve a consequence for it, the consequence he received was too severe for his deed.
I think about him all the time. He would be 18 or so now....
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