I have been doing play therapy with a six year old boy for five weeks now, i will call him Jack. Like many children in our schools he has had some very difficult experiences outside of school, which have a huge impact on his ability to manage relationships with children and staff and to focus and engage with his learning. In class, if his teacher is there he is constantly tapping the desk, with pencils and other objects, if she is out of class he paces around the room. He constantly interrupts and tries to get her attention.
Two years ago Jack witnessed his dad attacking his mum on several occasions, which he is describes in graphic detail during our play therapy sessions. He was always trying to protect his mum and often got hit too. He has moved to different locations across the country and changed school several times.
All of his experiences have not surprisingly resulted in him having extremely high levels of anxiety. His teacher and teaching assistant have an excellent understanding of his needs and i have suggested they help him by talking to him, taking him to do jobs out of the class, and giving him a long feather to tap with. He has a finger puppet with him during the day and can have this on his finger if he needs to and can stroke it to self soothe. He has a visual timetable and plenty of warning when his teacher will be out of class and is offered the change to work with his teacher from last year during this time if he wants to. All of this is helping him to regulate his feelings and feel safe and secure in school.
For Jack, the experience of terror and trauma has been overwhelming and he is left with the story and the feelings, which he is working through with me in play therapy and is being supported with by the staff in school. Whilst his story may sound extreme, sadly it is not uncommon, and can provide us all with a better understanding of why children may behave in particular ways, and enable us to have some empathy, which is not always easy when a child is tapping loudly all day!