Understanding Children With Behavior Problems
As parents and teachers, we have a great responsibility. We are not only teaching young minds, but shaping the future. The sad thing is that some of us don’t take the time to understand difficult or rebellious children. Why are they acting this way? We just assume they are misbehaving because of lack of discipline.
A young fifteen-year-old boy received excellent grades, but his teacher didn’t understand him. He felt the young man was a troublemaker. Because the teacher was not interested in getting to know his student, he demanded the boy leave school because his presence disturbed the other students. Albert Einstein, a great physicist, quit school because a teacher did not take the time to understand him. Many believe that he had Asperger Syndrome.
When my young grandson was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, my daughter read one book after another to find out about it. Diana wanted to know how to deal with her son. When she learned something new, she would call me and tell me about it. Her dedication in learning about her son’s behavior was impressive but she didn’t realize how difficult it would be to help others understand his condition. Even his teachers didn’t take the time to understand his behavior. They figured he was not paying attention or being difficult.
What is Asperger Syndrome? Individuals with Aspergers lack social skills, have a hard time reading nonverbal cues such as body language, and have difficulty understanding proper body space. They desire interaction with other children but many times don’t understand the sense of humor of their friends and take the things they say literally. They have a tough time with changes and are sensitive to new sounds, tastes, smells, and sights. They like sameness and perceive the world very differently from us so we must be patient. These young children are intelligent and are usually preoccupied with one subject such as science. At bedtime, when my daughter asks her son which story he would like her to read, he usually picks a children’s science book. In fact, their vocabulary usually sounds like “young professors.”
The behavior of an Asperger child is caused from neurological differences, which has to do with the structure and function of the nervous system. The behavior of an Asperger child is many times judged as being intentionally rude or having bad behavior. That is not true. It is not intentional and not a result of improper parenting.
Labeling or demeaning a child only holds them back from a greater future. Once a child is labeled, it’s a stigma that stays with him until something changes. I remember when my own daughter was labeled as a troublemaker, simply because she was an active child. Her teacher didn’t know how to cope with a lively child and had given her a negative label. This broke my heart and I didn’t know what to say or do. I realized that her self-esteem was being hurt.
The following year, my daughter’s new teacher was an elderly woman who adored my little girl. She said that she realized my daughter was active and had a tough time sitting still, so she allowed her to stand at her desk as she did her work. She said that it was working out wonderfully. Because of the love of a teacher, my daughter wanted to try harder. This sweet elderly teacher helped to boost my little girl’s self-esteem.
I had a heartrending experience that I never forgot. I was a substitute teacher for an elementary teacher. I had subbed for him before, but this day was different. This day something was definitely wrong and I was not sure what it was. As I moved toward the back of the room, I noticed a desk that was hidden behind a bookshelf. I peered around the corner and saw an eight-year-old girl resting her head against her arms.
I was surprised. Why was this student separated from the rest of the children? Why was she hidden behind this bookshelf…alone? One of the students volunteered, "Because she’s a trouble-maker, doesn’t do her schoolwork, and fights with the boys at recess."
After excusing the children, I talked to the young girl. It took quite a while to soften her angry eyes and her rebellious attitude. I asked her what her favorite color was, told her what a pretty dress she wore and that she had pretty eyes, etc. After a while, I had the young girl smiling. I moved her desk up front beside my own so she could be near me. As the day wore on, I spent much time with this young girl, helping her, talking to her, having her pass out papers to the students. By the end of the day, I had grown to love this young student and my heart went out to her. She had been abused by her peers and was misunderstood, simply because a teacher had labeled her as a “troublemaker.” Therefore, her fellow-students incessantly reminded her of this fact. No one seemed to befriend her or cared about her.