The beached whale syndrome

While not a tantrum, certain children—generally quite large and heavy— engage in a passive behavior, which has the effect of making it impossible for the teacher to continue working with them. This behavior consists of a large child flopping down on the floor, refusing to move, and passively resisting all efforts to be moved. Teachers, frustrated at their inability to physically move the child, called on me for cues as to how to deal with this behavior.

Having worked with a number of such children, I found that part of the motivation driving this behavior was often a wish for more nurturing from the teacher. Accordingly, I recommended that the teacher dealing with "a beached whale" not attempt to lift him (I have only seen this behavior with boys) but to breathe deeply and slowly to calm himself or herself, then to crouch down next to the child, talk to him quietly while gently rubbing his back for about five minutes, then slowly stand up and, without saying a word, simply hold out a hand. In almost every instance, a "beached whale" treated in this way will accept the teacher's proffered hand and allow himself to be led back to the group.

Sometimes, there is a tendency to dismiss this behavior and the child's need for nurturing by saying, "Oh, he just does that for attention!" To this I reply, "Yes, he needs attention in the same way that we need oxygen."

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Funny Wiring Autism

Funny Wiring Autism

Autism is a developmental disorder that manifests itself in early childhood and affects the functioning of the brain, primarily in the areas of social interaction and communication. Children with autism look like other children but do not play or behave like other children. They must struggle daily to cope and connect with the world around them.

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