Children's Village School: A year of positive moments
May 24, 2018
As the school year comes to a close, our team thought it would be the perfect opportunity to reflect upon all of the amazing things our clients have achieved over the past nine months. From the loud and proud celebrations to the seemingly inconsequential moments, the students at the Children’s Village School (CVS) continue to amaze us with their perseverance and drive.
Below is a collection of warm and fuzzy moments that we, as staff, have been lucky enough to be a part of this year. Ranging from goals that took multiple years to accomplish to a growing appreciation for healthy lifestyles, as a team we’ve come to appreciate the big, the small and everything in between. We know each client faces his or her own challenges and has goals, and we feel lucky to a part of their journey.
Brian has been a student with us here at CVS since kindergarten. Currently a Grade 3 student, he has made some really great improvements in his ability to recognize and regulate his emotions. A perfect example of this is his experiences on the bus. From kindergarten to this year, he was required to wear a harness any time he was brought to or from school. As a team, the school administration, bus committee and bus driver determined this was needed for both regulation and safety. Brian had voiced frustration in having to use the harness, so this year his classroom team created a positive bus behaviour plan with the goal of having his harness removed. The plan targeted specific behaviours such as having his hands and feet inside the seat, and using non-threatening or aggressive language with the bus attendant. Brian was given a sticker for every successful bus ride and, once he completed 30 days (60 bus rides) of consecutive positive bus rides, the harness would be removed. Brian had a goal for himself to have 60 bus rides by the end of the school year. He worked really hard and was able to get all 60 stickers the day before Spring Break! He was so excited to share his accomplishments with staff around the building and many people stopped by just to say how happy they were for him. Our classroom team made sure Brian knew just how proud we were of him. He was awarded with a certificate of achievement and a special prize of his choosing. These were presented to him in front of the class and served as a great opportunity for Byron to celebrate his accomplishments with his peers.
This is Luke’s second year with us at CVS. He is one of our quiet, pensive students and while that helps him in many areas of school, it also leads him to internalize, shut down and causes a lot of anxiety surrounding the need to be ‘perfect’ or to always have ‘good days’. In the first half of the school year, we saw a lot of emotional blunting and shutting down when receiving feedback, especially with regards to academics. He would literally roll away from us, hide and was not able to make eye contact. Luke has been working hard at accessing support and we are helping him to realize that this does not make him “stupid” or a “dum dum” (as he so often referred to himself). Since coming back from Spring Break, Luke lets us sit with him and rub his back when feeling down on himself, will look us in the eye when receiving feedback, and has even been able to verbally explain his frustrations by saying, “I wish I had gotten it right the first time,” “I thought I wouldn’t get any smarter if people kept helping me” and “I’m upset because the rules of the game don’t seem fair.” We are so proud of Luke and all that he’s accomplished this year. These are skills that he will be able to take with him into the next school year and beyond CVS.
Billy has established very close, secure relationships with some of our support staff here at CVS. He is definitely a student who is most successful when those he is comfortable with are near him giving him a thumbs up, a pat on the back, and rewarding him with his much loved story time. While these relationships have helped him develop compassion and empathy for those people, it has also proven a bit challenging when they are unable to spend that one-on-one time with him. In previous years, Billy had been very rigid about who he spends time with and for which activities (certain staff walked him to the bus, certain staff for story time, certain staff for lunch), but this year we’ve noticed him opening up his social circle and accepting both academic and behavioural support from staff around the building. We were so happy to see how kind and welcoming he was to an unfamiliar staff member last week when a preferred staff member was sick. He invited her to read with him, played with her outside and even thanked her for spending so much time with him at the end of the day!
Sarah, our twirling, dancing and spinning fireball, whose ability to regulate her emotions and behaviours was almost non-existent when she arrived at CVS, has developed so much since the beginning of the year. At the first sign of frustration, she often became aggressive and devastatingly self-deprecating. As a 6-year-old, she did not know the letters of her name and attempting to write it would send her into a fury of hateful statements, while kicking, screaming and latching on to our hair. She screamed, cried and made beds for herself in our multi-purpose room; always perfectly neat and straight, with a pillow and blanket. That act, in itself, would bring her a sense of calm and order. At times, we were her pillow and blanket, and we would wrap her up on our laps and breathe those calming breaths as if us doing it for her could be enough. We told her to ask for help and eventually she did; increasingly more often and, sometimes, even politely. As time went on, you could tell she knew help was on the way. She’d talk about her bad weekend, the endless list of people that hated her (everyone who’d shown her love). She’d run around the school in an angry fit. We would tell her to “take a break when you’re frustrated” and eventually she did – to the water fountain, several times a day. She did all these things on her own. As the school year went on, Sarah began to smile more and fight less. She learned her letters and, if she didn’t know a letter right away, she knew that was OK because she could find the letter on the name plate on her desk. She strategized and, as she did, she discovered her resilience, strengths and her own right to her feelings, whatever they are.
Marie arrived at Children’s Village School in the fall of 2017. She had been specially referred to our school and bypassed the usual process our clients go through due to her complex needs. She suffered a non-accidental traumatic brain injury before she was two and, as a result, entered into the foster care system. Due to the behavioural issues arising from her injury – primarily head-banging, tantrums, and difficulty with impulse control and emotional regulation – she was difficult to place with a foster family long-term and lived in over 10 different homes before she turned 11. Marie is currently living in and receiving treatment at a Wood’s Homes program. When she first began school, she had significant difficulties remaining in the classroom, let alone completing any academic work. She would often have a tantrum and head-bang for extended periods throughout the day. Through collaboration with the classroom team and staff, we have been able to come up with a detailed support plan for her. Initially, she was completing her school work with support at all times and had many breaks built into her day. Even still, she struggled to emotionally regulate and would still tantrum, albeit less frequently with less intensity and shorter in duration. Through building relationships with the staff, as well as developing consistent routines and expectations, she is now able to follow the same routine as the rest of the class. She is also able to work independently on all her academics and has not had a tantrum in a month!
Michael started kindergarten with us this year. As a developmentally delayed ESL (English as a Second Language) student, he came to us with almost no English, did not participate in activities with the rest of the students and was a challenge to keep in the classroom. We strongly believed that a lot of his frustration and disruptive energy stemmed from his inability to communicate. Michael has been working so hard over the past few months and this week we observed a huge breakthrough for him. When asked which activity he would like to take part in, he said “I want play soccer” and then proceeded to run over to a group of children and join their game! He ran, kicked and laughed with the other students. To see Michael included in games with children and staff warms our hearts, and we can’t wait to see what the rest of year has in store for him.
Andrew is a well-liked, kind-hearted student. He tends to want to please both peers and staff. While this shows how generous and lovable he is, it has also created some conflict as he has been convinced and swayed to participate in some poor decision-making. We have been working with him on recognizing the difference between negative and positive choices and being assertive. Recently, he has begun to utilize these skills without prompting and has been overheard reminding his friends to use ‘kind words’. When one student was trying to get him to target another, he spoke up and said, “Hey! That’s not nice. He’s my buddy!” We love to see how Andrew has been able to develop a sense of assertive confidence, while maintaining that sweet, gentle personality we all know and love.