Monday, February 8, 2016

8 yr old accused of assault in school

Hi: I have a 8 year old great nephew in whom I have been awarded the custody of in a bitter custody battle a year ago.  He has lived with me since 7 weeks of age and has been diagnosed with ADHD.  His father suffered from this as well and his biological mother  too.  He is over weight and is taking medication for ADHD.  We had an incident at school with another child trying to take his book from him.  He and the other child began pushing each other, and my son tried to hit the other child with the book.  The teacher stepped in and demanded my son to give her the book.  He refused, and she went to take the book from him, and he reacted by trying to obtain the book.  The school says he pushed on her arm twice, and they are charging him with assault on school personnel.  I have never been involved in anything like this before and don't know my options or how to even begin to protect my son.  We were supposed to meet to put his IEP in place for other health impairment. Can you help me or give me direction where to look for advice?

I have been reading your blog and it is so helpful to see that other parents are going through some of what I am going through.

Hi, I would check with your child's doctor, or your state's psychological association, or a local chapter of CHADD (support group for ADHD) to see who they recommend to help counsel you and your nephew, and at the same time make recommendations for the school.  When a child has an IEP, there ought to be spelled out ways of handling problem areas.  I have not heard of an 8 year old being charged with assault for the type of incident you describe.  Yes, there ought to be limits for being physical with a teacher, but a detention, and in school suspension, or an out of school suspension might be needed.  If it's his first time getting physical the punishment ought to be on the lighter side. 

Furthermore, I would recommend you and the staff discuss ways of handling your nephew when he gets frustrated in the future.  In my anger overload manual volume 2, I explain ways of handling anger in the schools.  There are strategies teachers can use to work around problem areas (by changing the sequence to avoid frustration, or by using mantras to remind the child how to deal with frustration).  Other approaches I explain are how to use emotional distraction when a child is just starting to get angry (including giving the child something to do, like taking something to the office to help you, since that removes the child from the difficult situation), and how to use behavior modification in schools (rewards and consequences) to increase the frequency of self-control behaviors.

Hopefully cooler heads will prevail at your upcoming IEP meeting.  Try to see a local mental health professional before your meeting, if possible.  The mental health professional can help identify possible underlying issues (maybe the bitter custody fight, or his feelings about his weight, or his ADHD), and the professional can help you devise strategies to help at home and school.  See if the person can come to the IEP meeting as well.

Best, Dr. Dave Gottlieb 

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