Do you know Tom?
Tom is fictional, but like many kids in our school (or any school)…he struggles. He is different from many of his peers, while some of them struggle, Tom, well he struggles more than most. When Tom struggles he gets frustrated, when he gets really frustrated he gets angry. When Tom gets angry he says and does things that upsets others.
At our school (and at all schools) we spend a lot of time with kids like Tom working with them and trying to help learn the skills he needs to manage his behaviour so that he can engage in learning.
Kids like Tom struggle in three main areas: social, academic and behavioural. If you have been following my series of posts on self-regulation or work with kids that struggle, you are probably aware that these domains are often interconnected and struggles in one area often bleed into another.
We want answers.
There are many of us looking and we want quick results – Tom’s behaviour is intense and he is hard to deal with. As a result there are number of different “programs” for students who struggle. These programs take many forms – digital, printed text, face to face etc. There is no shortage of interventions at our disposal that offer Tom the chance to “close the gap” and overcome his struggles.
Here’s the thing…none of them work.
At least not in isolation.
You see Tom is like you and I – he’s different. He has different needs, different views, understands things differently and responds to things differently. Merely applying a program or intervention without considering context and the uniqueness of the individual is ultimately doomed to fail. What worked for one student, won’t work for another because they are different.
In my experience the only intervention that does work is one based on care.
If we are going to help the Toms of the world, first we need to know the Tom’s of the world. We need to KNOW Tom…not just his needs. What does Tom care about? What are Tom’s interests? What does he worry about? etc. In order to help Tom, we have to let Tom know we care about him as a person. More importantly Tom needs to believe we care about him.
In my experience the best intervention is not a program, but a relationship.
Once there is a foundation of trust, we can implement interventions that helps but without trust chances are Tom will not acquire the skills he needs to change.