Angles on Therapy


The previous post left off with the Head Start Trauma Smart program, which can help a child who needs to calm down. David Bornstein describes one of the practices — wearing a special bracelet. When a child starts to lose control, the idea is to remember to look at the bracelet and associate it with calming techniques such as, “Stop, take a deep breath, count to four, give yourself a hug and, if necessary, ask an adult for help.”

One suggestion is to have a safe spot, or calm-down corner, “with shoeboxes filled with sunglasses, pinwheels and tactile things: nail brushes with soft bristles, bendy Gumby animals, or pieces of burlap or velvet.” This also sounds like a very good idea for distracting a child who is having a snack-refusal meltdown.

Bornstein gives the example of a five-year-old boy, the child of drug-impaired parents (including a father in prison), who was being raised by his grandparents. The boy’s problems, which ordinarily would have kept him out of preschool, included explosive rage and combativeness. The journalist quotes the grandmother as saying, “We used to have to do these steps four or five times a day. Now we’re down to four or five times a week.”

Head Start Trauma Smart is based on ARC, which stands for “Attachment, Self-Regulation and Competency.” This modality is described as a framework for intervention to deal with multiple and/or prolonged traumatic stress. It’s all about resiliency.

The ability to bounce back from setbacks and even injuries is a prime survival skill. It is the main component of the mysterious quality known as hardiness. People used to think it had to be inborn, or acquired via the “school of hard knocks,” but now we have learned that hardiness can be not only cultivated, but taught.

That is the mission of ARC, whose literature brings up such solemn and fraught issues as “reduced use of restraints in programs, and improved permanency rates in foster care.” If this all seems to be drifting far afield from the topic of childhood obesity, it’s not. Some children live in cars, see parents arrested, face daily humiliation at school because they only have one set of clothes, and may even be physically abused.

For other kids, the worst thing that happens is that they fall asleep listening to their parents arguing, night after night after night. Compared to the first set of circumstances, the second scenario seems pretty lightweight.

But both are traumatizing, and both of those kids might react by wetting the bed, or cutting little slices in themselves. Both might react by eating everything that doesn’t run away first. In other words, any therapy that can help a child with a devastating amount of damage can probably benefit a child with problems that appear, from the outside, to be less stressful.

But because everyone isn’t the same, different approaches sometimes work with different patients. In the quest to alleviate obesity and all its attendant problems, it is advantageous to look at any promising avenue.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Teaching Children to Calm Themselves,”, 03/19/14
Source: “Attachment, Regulation and Competency (ARC),”, undated
Image by theUdodelig

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