Including the Child With Aggressive Behavior at Church

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Kids with a history of aggressive behavior can generally be included in children’s ministry programming with appropriate forethought and training. In this workshop, participants will identify church environments and activities associated with increased risk for aggression, receive tools for disrupting patterns of behavior in children with the potential to lead to aggression, review communication strategies with parents after an act of aggressive behavior has occurred and discuss ministry alternatives when a child with a history of aggression can’t safely be included at church.

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Including the Child With Aggressive Behavior at Church

  1. 1. Including the Child With Aggressive Behavior at Church Stephen Grcevich, MD President, Board of Directors, Key MinistryClinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Northeast Ohio Medical University Senior Clinical Instructor, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine ENGAGE Children’s Ministry Conference West Shore Evangelical Church, Mechanicsburg PA November 10, 2012
  2. 2. Learning Objectives… Identify characteristics of kids who are predisposed to aggressive behavior Exploreapproaches for establishing ministry environments that reduce risk of aggression Reviewstrategies for intervening when kids are escalating toward or exhibiting aggression, and communicating with parents after aggressive behavior has occurred Discuss ministry strategies when the risk associated with a child’s aggressive behavior prevents inclusion at church
  3. 3. Subtypes of aggressive behavior:Reactive aggression: Predatory aggression Affect: fear, anger  Affect: self-confidence Arousal level: high  Arousal level: low Outcome: negative  Outcome: positive for self Impulsive  Controlled Reactive  Predatory Defensive  Offensive Overt  Covert Hostile  Instrumental Vitiello B, Stott DM. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 1997; 36(3) 307-315
  4. 4. Definition of maladaptive aggression: Aggressive behavior that occurs outside an acceptable social contextMaladaptive behavior is characterized by:Intensity, frequency, duration and severity are disproportionate to its causesMay occur in absence of antecedent social cuesBehavior not terminated in expected time frame, or in response to feedbackJensen P et al. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2007; 46(3): 309-322
  5. 5. Traits associated with maladaptiveaggression: Difficulty with behavioral inhibition, emotional self- regulation Irritability/anxiety frequently predominant mood Misperception of social cues Misinterpretation of environmental risk Difficulty with communication Cognitive rigidity…propensity to get “stuck”
  6. 6. What situations at church may increase a child’srisk for aggressive behavior? Initial visits to an unfamiliar church Transition times before/after children’s activities Chaotic, unstructured activities Kids transitioning from one area to another in building Excessive sensory stimulation Unfamiliar staff, volunteers Following high stimulation, high energy activities Evening activities (time course effects of medications, fatigue)
  7. 7. Environment shapes behavior!The more sensory input a child has to process, the less mental capacity remains for self-control.Consider… Visual input/clutter, lighting, use of color Use of pictures to assist in communication Effects of loud noise Touch…not everyone likes it Comfortable seating http://drgrcevich.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/inclusion- fusion-2011-harmony-welcomingenvironments.pdf
  8. 8. Space Planning & Sensory Issues Open check-in area with neutral tones and plotter images to reduce visual clutter
  9. 9. Space Planning & Sensory Issues Vineyard Student Union (middle school and senior high ministry)
  10. 10. Communication aides: Communication keys used to enhance volunteer name tags http://www.keyministry.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/PM- Appendix-3r-Sample-Communication-Key-and-Signage.pdf
  11. 11. Keys to Behavior Management Before During After
  12. 12. Before… Pray Create your classroom/respite culture  Encouragement  Expectations Plan proactively  Physical arrangement of the room  Staffing  Content of the lesson  Pace of the lesson  “In the event of an emergency…”
  13. 13. During: First line strategies Proximity Control Distraction Hurdle Help Antiseptic Bounce
  14. 14. During: Next steps “Grandma’s Law” Emotional Labeling Watch YOUR language Managing other students for safety
  15. 15. During: General Rule of Thumb When a child/youth is demonstrating aggressive behavior that is predominantly impulsive in nature, decreasing the sensory stimulation in the environment is generally helpful When a child/youth is demonstrating aggressive behavior that is predominantly perseverative in nature, distracting the child as early as possible before the pattern escalates is generally helpful
  16. 16. After: Non-judgmental conversation Problem-solving Quiet Allow for “busy work” Re-join peers Communicate with parents
  17. 17. How can parents help? Do share information with ministry team about techniques shown to help prevent/reduce aggression Do administer medication shown to help reduce frequency, severity of aggressive behavior during church activities (with approval of treating physician) Do be aware of the concern that aggressive behavior presents with largely untrained volunteers Doconsider keeping your child home when he/she exhibits aggression that you can’t successfully manage at home
  18. 18. What if a child/youth presents too great arisk of severe aggression to attend church? Support the rest of the family in attending church, participating in discipleship activities Relational (home-based) respite Paid in-home child care/buddies with specialized training Scheduling church activities when child care available Whose responsibility is the child’s spiritual development? Church as resource provider to parent?
  19. 19. Conclusions: Kids with reactive aggression can generally be included in existing church programming Churches may reduce risk of aggression behavior by designing friendly ministry environments Providing teachers and group leaders adequate training to identify and intervene in potentially risky situations Ensure sufficient staffing at times of enhanced risk Traditional church may not be the “least restrictive environment” for some children/youth especially prone to aggressive behavior
  20. 20. Provides FREE training,consultation, resources andsupport to help churches serve,welcome and include families ofkids with hidden disabilities
  21. 21. Stay in Touch!Key Ministry Website: http://www.keyministry.orgChurch4EveryChild…Steve’s Key Ministry Blog: http://drgrcevich.wordpress.comDiving For Pearls…Katie Wetherbee’s Blog: http://katiewetherbee.wordpress.comA Reckless Pursuit…Harmony Hensley’s Blog: http://arecklesspursuit.wordpress.com http://www.facebook.com/drgrcevich http://www.facebook.com/pages/Key-Ministry/116940088329098 http://twitter.com/#!/drgrcevich http://twitter.com/#!/KeyMinistry
  22. 22. Questions?

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