Helping Students with Attachment Issues
Here, you can see my pile of data on Ethan, a student who is a major focal point of my inquiry. I wrote down observations on anything and everything I could--all while trying to put out fires and teach my other students.
Ethan is a sweet and very energetic six year-old with a speech and language disorder. After having him for two years, I came to know him and his home life very well; I knew his mood from the instant I walked into the cafeteria to pick him up in the morning. Typically, Ethan was mischievous and antagonizing. He had difficulty relating to his peers. Moreover, his experiences at home with three brothers sometimes led to aggressive and violent tendencies towards his friends.
When Ethan entered my class two years ago, we had a student named Amanda (a pseudonym) with down syndrome. Ethan was so wonderful with her. He would help her, be kind to her, and make sure she was safe and on task. When I eventually did her reevaluation and she left our classroom for a different placement, Ethan replaced his attachment to Amanda with an attachment to me.
Ethan also worked with Sam, a student with ADHD who needed some extra support while his medications were being adjusted. However, they both sought attention in pretty disruptive and negative ways. And when Donnie, a student on the autism spectrum, needed Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy from me with one-on-one attention, Ethan would throw chairs, sulk in the corner, be violent towards his peers, throw things around the room, and rip down charts and artwork.
In order to support Ethan in developing positive class behavior, I worked to get counseling added to his Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Unfortunately, he never wanted to go to counseling because he didn’t want to leave me. The counselor and I believed he was getting attention from me in any way that he could because of possible problems at home.
Sometimes drawing or writing their feelings is easier than trying to express them verbally. Below, you'll see a picture Ethan drew while with the guidance counselor. As you can see in the picture, I was helping another child sit in a bean bag and focus on the lesson. Ethan is expressing his frustration at my attention being re-directed to another student.
I had to do something fast or else his behavior would be detrimental to the other boys and Ethan would not grow socially and emotionally.