Blog for Early Childhood Professionals

  • Collaborating with a student to change a behavior

    Michael (not his real name) is a 5-year old boy who has autism. He loves playing outside. During school recess each day he smiles as he digs for worms in the dirt, shovels and sifts in the sandbox, and gleefully rides on the swings. Our school playground has areas that are both open to the elements and covered by a roof, allowing outdoor play regardless of weather.

    As the temperatures began to get colder, Michael was quite willing to put on his coat, but he adamantly refused to keep his head covered with a hat or a hood. This was becoming a point of struggle at home, and his mother expressed concern about ...

  • Understanding upsetting behavior as communication

    I had just brought Sammy (not his real name) in from the playground at the end of our school day. His mother was usually in the hallway by this time to greet him and take him home. On this day, since she wasn’t there yet, I suggested to Sammy that we could get his backpack from the cubby and wait for her together, sitting on chairs in the hallway.

    The very moment we got his backpack, his mother arrived. They have a very loving relationship, so I was surprised when Sammy threw a fully physical and verbal tantrum.

    Since teachers at Hanna Perkins view behavior as communication, I considered what Sammy might be telling ...

  • Taking time to learn from a student with autism

    My student Sammy (not his real name) began looking up briefly from his desk in the classroom. At first these movements appeared to serve the purpose of relieving neck strain or perhaps eye strain from looking down at his table work. But I soon realized that he was catching quick looks at the clock on the wall.

    I pointed to the clock and asked him, “Clock?” which prompted a longer gaze at the classroom fixture. I asked again, “Do you see the clock?” He replied “Yes” and then went back to his work.

    While he worked, I fetched our teaching clock from the classroom cupboard and brought it to Sammy’s desk. It was a ...

  • The importance of talking with children about feelings

    The situation: Four-year-old Michael was misbehaving. The teacher, Mr. Carpenter, was speaking quietly to him, helping with feelings the young boy could not express verbally.

    caring-teacher-1622554-1280x960_freeimages_Heriberto Herrera“Michael, if you are missing mommy and feeling sad, we can talk about her, think about her and make her a picture,” Mr. C said. “You can miss mommy and still feel like a big schoolboy who can manage and be safe.”

    Nearby, Alex had been watching this interaction out of the corner of his eye while building with blocks. Unexpectedly he lashed out at Julia, who was working next to him, knocking over her building. Julia yelled,” Alex is mean and being bad!” Alex appeared unconcerned about what ...

  • Cross-cultural test of anti-bullying program

    trinidad-w-bell-0716While team members at The Hanna Perkins Center for Child Development were preparing this summer for the first broad-based rollout of “My Mad Feelings,” a bullying prevention curriculum for children as young as 4, Clinical Director Kimberly Bell was giving the program a cross-cultural test at a school in Trinidad and Tobago. While the test was informal, the results, she said, were strongly positive.

    While most anti-bullying programs focus on adolescent children, the origins of bullying can be recognized at a much younger age – when children first go to school or child care, and are learning to advocate for themselves in a social setting.

    When angry, scared or otherwise bothered, young children “share” the way they feel ...

  • An alternative to punishment for misbehavior

    boy closeup-conscience_ Serge Bertasius Photography_freedigitalphotosThe Situation

    Five-year-old Thomas sat in his chair at morning meeting. During the “Days of the Week” song, Thomas rocked in his chair to the music. He knew it was against the rules because it wasn’t safe; chairs tip over easily. But when no one seemed to notice or comment on it, he did it again. Still, nobody paid attention.

    When morning meeting ended, the children were free to choose an activity. Thomas chose puzzles, his favorite. But when he couldn’t get the pieces to go in correctly, he picked up a piece and threw it across the room.

    His teacher was surprised. “What’s wrong, Thomas? You seem angry. You usually love ...

  • The ‘inside helper’: Helping young children make good decisions and use their conscience

    training wheels_1431529-639x745_ned horton_freeimagesThe situation: Five-year-old Abby pushed her way into the preschool line. She had been waiting all day to show her teacher how well she could ride a bike with training wheels.

    “Hey, you’re pushing in front of me and that’s not fair,” cried Jack. “I want to get outside too!”

    Abby started to cry: “Now I’ll never be able to show Mr. Martin how I ride a bike, because they’ll all be taken!”

    Mr. Martin approached the children and asked what was going on.

    “Abby pushed me so she could get a bike, but I was here first,” Jack complained.

    “I just wanted to show you that yesterday I learned to ride a bike with ...

  • A strategy for talking with children so they’ll listen

    preschool-class-activities2-1-1439482-639x958_freeimages_anissa thompsonThe situation: Mrs. Parker called out to her preschool class, “It’s almost time to clean up and go outside to play.”

    It was a cold snowy day and the children needed to put on warm clothes.

    Laura looked up and said, “No, I’m not going.” Paul screamed, “I didn’t get my turn on the easel.” Rebecca ignored the direction, and two boys, Jason and Robbie, started running around the room chasing each other.

    Mrs. P raised her voice. “It’s time to finish what you are doing and put on your coats!”

    William, who was struggling to put on his snow pants, fell backwards, crying that he needed help, while Jennifer teased him that he was ...

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