Monday, September 23, 2019

School Restraint From Every Side of the Fence (PANDAS Parent)

We've had a few great weeks, which in my PANDAS-parent mind just makes me ridiculously nervous for the other shoe to drop. What if school is actually horrible and no one has told me? What if my child is terrorizing the teacher, and I have no idea.

I watch them like a hawk, limit their diet, hold my breath when they say goodbye to me on the bus, and drive their teachers crazy with emails. I don't even recognize myself as a parent. When things are good, it's hard to relax. Can I trust that it is good? What if it isn't? What if this one moment of sassiness is the beginning of a downward spiral?

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Awhile ago I found myself in a situation at a school where the school team had to make a decision about how to manage a child's behavior. It was a tricky situation, and all of us who were responding were stuck between how we'd been trained to respond, and the newer philosophies of co-regulating with an upset child instead of holding firm on an expectation.

We sat there uncomfortably, looking at each other. We all wanted to "Ross Green" it, but it went against everything we'd been previously taught - and human instinct to "be in charge". We were the adults. We should be able to make a child follow the rules. We should be in charge. And after all, most of us had been in this situation before, where we'd been trained to use restraint on a child. 

Even in the moment, we talked through what would happen if we used restraint. It would only escalate the situation. No good would come out of it, other than making us feel like we had some sort of control. One of us would most likely get hurt, which would cause a chain reaction of events. The child, who was already terrified and responding in a fright/flight/freeze manner, would only become more traumatized. Restraint would forever change how this child saw school and the adults in it.

We took the time to talk through, and even though it felt uncomfortable to wait, we waited. We waited and breathed, in and out, catching our breath with his, until his breathing slowed down and his body calmed. We gained trust, and we slowly, gently, walked back to where we needed to be.

With every breath I matched with his, I thought of my own daughter. Will she have adults think through their responses as we had? Will her teachers be willing to put aside the "I'm in charge" immediate reaction and look deeper into the consequences of harsh responses? Or will they decide to impose their will, take a stand, and escalate it? 

In those moments, I was so aware of my own decision making process. It was uncomfortable to choose to wait, and yet I fully believe it was the right decision. Yet how many times have we not chosen to wait? We act fast, never wanting to be seen as letting a child manipulate or get away with something. There is something gravely wrong with the fact that sitting with an upset child felt wrong. This is what we, as educators, need to understand. Now that films like The Kids We Lose have come out and we are called to do better, we need to recognize that co-regulation goes against what we've been previously trained to do.

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So, as a parent, I wait for the phone to ring, telling me to come get my out of control child. I pray that the adults with her are as patient and understanding as our team was for our child. If they are not, the consequences are dire - much as they are for children all over the country who struggle with restraint and seclusion. 

I have no indication so far that in kindergarten that she will require such intervention, but PANDAS has made me scared of what could come. I live in fear of PANDAS rage occurring at school, and not knowing how teams will respond.