Thursday, February 4, 2010

Article: Violence in Aggressive Children & Youth

Excerpt from The Council of Exceptional Children & Youth

Author: Mary K. Fitzsimmons

November 1998

A few of the key elements that emerge from much of this research include:
  • Troubled students need habilitative services instead of haphazard punishment. A full continuum of educational, mental health, and other services should be available to them.
  • Aggressive and violent behaviors do not develop overnight and cannot therefore be ameliorated or eradicated in short periods of time.
  • The entire community is better off when troubled students are served more appropriately.
  • Schoolwide discipline policies need to be formulated and taught to all students.

What to Look For

Aggressive students often exhibit deficits in social information processing; that is, they are likely to misinterpret social cues and misassign hostile intent to others, especially during times of stress. They are more likely than others to have some social skills deficits such as poor impulse control, low frustration tolerance, limited ability to generate alternative responses to stress, and limited insight into the feelings of self and others. Social skills training can be crucial to these students.

These students also may be frequently frustrated and yet have fewer skills than others to cope with the frustration. Additional sources of frustration for these students include:

  • Disorganized or inconsistent teachers
  • Failure
  • Boredom
  • Lack of positive reinforcement
  • Irrelevant curriculum
  • Overexposure to punishment
  • Feelings of powerlessness
The Stages of Frustration and Appropriate Responses

1.Anxiety: Student sighs or uses other nonverbal cues. Teacher can respond by active listening and nonjudgmental talk.
2.Stress: Student exhibits minor behavior problems. Teacher can use proximity control, boost student interest, or provide assistance with assignments.
3.Defensiveness: Student argues and complains. Teacher can remind student of rules, use conflict resolution, and encourage student to ask for help.
4.Physical Aggression: Student has lost control and may hit, bite, kick, or throw objects. Teacher can escort the student from class, get help, restrain student if necessary, and protect the safety of the other children.
5.Tension Reduction: Student releases tension through crying or verbal venting, or student may become sullen and withdrawn. Teacher can decide whether to use supportive or punishment techniques (or both) and help the student gain insight into feelings and behavior.

How to Respond

A nurturing, caring environment is one antidote to frustration and aggression. Teachers who are therapeutic demonstrate a high level of self-awareness and self-confidence, realistic expectations of self, and the ability to exhibit and model self-control in managing stress and frustration. Therapeutic teachers can develop the type of nurturing environment needed to establish trust and rapport with their students.

Many specific strategies are available to educators to help troubled students. However, early intervention is by far the most important predictor for success. Experts agree that if comprehensive intervention is not provided by Grade 3 or 4, success in ameliorating aggression is unlikely.

How to Intervene

Once these children have been identified, there are three stages of prevention that influence the intervention strategies:

1.Primary prevention aims at keeping problems from emerging. First Step to Success and other commercially available curriculums can be used to divert antisocial young children from a path leading to adjustment problems.
2.Secondary prevention requires individually tailored interventions applied to students who show at risk status. Individual counseling and one-on-one behavior management plans are hallmarks of this stage of intervention. The Second Step is an example of a commercially available curriculum designed for these students.
3.Tertiary prevention involves intensive "wraparound" services that extend beyond the school building to encompass family and social support services. It is applied to the most severely at-risk students.

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