A few weeks ago, my client, Ethan, came in for his session very upset and agitated. We began our lesson and tried working through his irritation to no avail. Ethan was becoming more and more distraught. So, we took a short detour from our lesson to discuss the issue. I am a big stickler for doing lessons in letterboard sessions – it is part of the process – engaging the brain and then body in cognitive lessons. However, sometimes the situation calls for a change in plan and this was one of those days!
Elizabeth: Let’s break for a moment Ethan. I can see you are really upset. What’s going on?
Ethan: I AM UPSET BECAUSE I AM NOT KIDDING AROUND AND I CAN NOT HELP IT WHEN MY BODY ACTS OUT.
Elizabeth: Let’s try writing a letter to your body.
I DO NOT LIKE YOUR BEHAVIOR TODAY! YOU ARE MAKING ME DO THINGS I DO NOT WANT TO DO AT ALL! DO NOT MAKE ME LOOK BAD ALL THE TIME. I DO NOT WANT PEOPLE THINKING I BEHAVE LIKE THIS ON PURPOSE. JUST LIKE A PUPPET MY BODY MAKES ME DO STUPID THINGS ALL THE TIME. I WOULD NOT MAKE SUCH STUPID CHOICES IF I WERE IN CHARGE OF MY BODY. NO ONE CAN UNDERSTAND HOW PAINFUL THIS IS TO ME. I HATE NOT BEING IN CONTROL OF MYSELF. IT SUCKS SO MUCH. ONE DAY I AM LIKE A WELL BEHAVED KID AND THEN I AM LIKE SOME SORT OF CRAZY PERSON. I GUESS THIS IS WHY PEOPLE DOUBT THAT I AM SMART. I REALLY CAN’T BLAME THEM. I WOULD PROBABLY THINK THE SAME THING IF I SAW SOMEONE ACTING LIKE I DO SOMETIMES. IT IS A BUMMER TO BE STUCK IN THIS BODY THAT MAKES ME LOOK STUPID WHEN I AM ACTUALLY REALLY SMART. THE END.
Elizabeth: Can I ask you an additional question?
Elizabeth: How do you want people to treat you when your body is going crazy?
Ethan: JUST IGNORE MY BODY AND TALK TO ME LIKE YOU WOULD IF MY BODY WAS NOT FREAKING OUT. CALLING ATTENTION TO IT ONLY MAKES IT LAST LONGER. KNOW TIME WILL MAKE IT BETTER. I AM ALWAYS TRYING TO CONTROL MYSELF. BE PATIENT WITH ME.
Elizabeth: Can I share this on my blog? I think other kids have this same issue and it may help them.
Ethan: SO GREAT IF MY WORDS CAN HELP OTHERS.
I am so grateful to Ethan and his family for letting me share his letter to his body and his other thoughts with you. Motor control is HUGE issue for our clients. I believe we need to be very careful about what we label as “behavior” (this word is rapidly becoming my least favorite) and what is truly a lack of motor control or the manifestation of another underlying issue.
Ethan’s irritation continued over subsequent sessions. His mom and caregiver reported that he has been similarly bothered at home. The cause of Ethan’s increased discomfort and motor activity and lack of body control started to come out during a creative writing about the scientific method. (Great information is often revealed “sideways” in cognitive lessons). Turns out that Ethan is very anxious about starting middle school in the next couple of weeks and “that is why my body is acting out.” Huh….imagine that! Not an intentional “behavior” but a very understandable anxiety about embarking on a new, exciting but completely unknown educational experience! How very like any other kid getting ready to head off to middle school! ~Elizabeth