Sometimes something just works and feels right. And maybe there’s no evidence-based practice, but I feel it, and I notice the shift in energy and connection and action, so I run with it.
I’ve been talking about my students’ brains a lot.
I think it helps them understand.
I’ve noticed a shift.
In the past, when I’ve said things like, “Kelly, it looks like you’re not paying attention” or “Kelly, are you paying attention?” the response is usually defensive, anxiety-filled, or frustrated. “I am paying attention!” Kelly will say, even if we both know she’s not. When I’ve said, “Kelly, it looks like your brain is thinking about another thought” or “Kelly, is your brain distracting you?” more often than not, she will agree, and accept ideas to re-focus.
Really, it’s just a subtle shift. From “you” to “your brain”. But for whatever reason, it’s working. I wonder if it’s because it allows them to accept their actions from one step removed. It lets them understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. It doesn’t mean letting them off the hook, it doesn’t mean telling them they “can’t help it”. It just gives them a little cushioning to accept that yes, they are behaving in this way, yes, they are speaking in this way, yes, they are acting in this way, and it’s okay. It reassures them that they are not intrinsically “bad” (which is often how a lot of our special ed. kids portray themselves and name as the reason for their struggles), but their brain causes them to act in certain ways. It gives them a reason for why. And it seems to help them be more open to trying to get past whatever obstacles their brain is throwing their way. I’ve noticed a shift in their willingness to embrace their actions, and work to find strategies to bypass the obstacles.
So I say things like:
“Did your brain forget that word?”
“Looks like your brain is thinking about something else”
“Tell your brain that we’re moving on from that topic”
Remember Joey? (We still do the silly 911 script at least once during each speech/language therapy session – he now takes the “phone” from me and sometimes talks to “911” himself.)
I’ve been using the “brain” terminology with him, and he took it and ran with it. Joey used to push, giggle, or yell when he felt something. If anyone asked him why, he couldn’t identify a reason. He would say, “I’m not sure” or “I felt like it.” Now, he can often say, “Because I’m worried about _______” or “Because I’m mad about ______.” And, sometimes, even before he starts to push, giggle, or yell, he will say, “My brain is feeling worried” or “My brain is feeling disappointed.” (Do you see how huge that is for him? To identify how he’s feeling.) And that has evolved into a script, too.
He will say, “My brain is feeling disappointed” [or whatever he is feeling]
Then he says, to me, “Be like, ‘Brain? Why are you feeling disappointed?’”
So I say, “Brain? Why are you feeling disappointed?”
And he says, “Brain says, ‘Because it’s not my day to use the ipad’” [or whatever reason]
Then it’s my turn, because he’s still learning. So I say, “Hmm. I have an idea. What if we tell your brain, ‘Brain, it makes sense that you are feeling disappointed. What if we take a few deep breaths and remind your brain that you get to use the ipad tomorrow?’” [or whatever suggestion is pertinent]
Then he usually nods, and grins, and we move on.
And it’s working. For now. And when things work, I keep it going.