J is wild! He flips his body around the gym with abandon. He understands the rules of safety, but upon entering the gym, he’s like a bull in a pen seeing red! We review the rules of the gym regularly. We play impulse games in the gym so J can experience stopping his body and then going again. We work on visually scanning the environment at all times to register any possibility of danger toward himself or others. And we see improvement. J is beginning to be able to modulate his movement better on his own, without an adult reminder… but sometimes he doesn’t.
When a friend began crying in the gym, rather than offering words of comfort, J continued playing in sort of an expressionless manner. The crying child was not clear about what happened so my co-leader stayed in the gym to console and work out the problem, while I took the other kids back to the classroom. I quietly heard J remark, “I didn’t mean it.” When I asked, he said, “I didn’t mean to hurt him.”
As Karen and I processed what happened, it turned out that J didn’t hurt the child. The friend was crying because he wasn’t able to do what he wanted in the gym. This had nothing at all to do with J! So, we talked about how J got to the place of feeling guilty. Did this happen often? Did he go around thinking it was always his fault when he heard kids cry on the playground? Does he not comfort friends because he feels responsible and can’t face them?
Now we know what to work on with J in the empathy department. We will tell him, kids cry sometimes and it is not his fault. It is always a good idea to go to a friend who is crying. Even if it is his fault, asking if a friend is OK is the kind thing to do. If he does hurt someone, saying “sorry, I didn’t mean it” are fine words to use. Then, it is time to learn and let it go. Don’t carry around the guilt and perception of yourself as one who hurts. We all make mistakes; you are forgiven, J. Now go play!
Submitted by: Jill Perry M.S. MHA OTR/L
image by Ben Francis