More schools are seeing young children in crisis today, complete with disruptive behaviors such as raging, biting, and tearing rooms apart.
Several times a week, something would set off one little boy in his Auburn Maine elementary school class, and he raged out of control. A crisis response team, including the principal, had to be called to respond to the hitting, kicking, biting, destruction, and attempts to run away. He was one of the youngest children in the school.
Twenty years ago, it was more common for schools to respond to out of control teens, not children in Kindergarten and primary grades. But now experts report that they are seeing more of these incidents with children as young as preschool.
“There were a bunch of times that I was called and dealt with the student,” said Laura Shaw, Sherwood Heights Elementary School principal. “And I remember just having him in my lap and he didn’t even know what he was angry about. Just sweating. Body was tight, tight, tight, tight … And I’m not even doing a (restraining) hold. He’s still mad, but I’m not holding him. I’m feeling his body just gradually let go. And, honestly, I think it was something so small. You know, maybe he wasn’t first in line or something.”
School leaders and mental health experts say Maine children are coming to them more often, at younger ages and with more significant problems than in decades past. Troubled teens have been joined by kindergartners in crisis.
“There are more extremes in behaviors than we’ve dealt with before,” said Lewiston school Superintendent Bill Webster.
Schools are working on programs that leaders hope will help. Because young children, like that raging little boy, don’t stay young for long.
“I remember thinking, ‘OK, he’s so little. What’s he going to do when he’s bigger?'” Shaw said.