by Ann Adams
Gary is another of our younger residents at the facility for Severely Emotionally Disturbed children where I work. Tall for his age of 9 and very lanky, he prefers his pajamas to clothes. He gets his bath and puts on his pajamas at the earliest time permitted on his cottage. It was not unusual to walk onto his cottage at 6:30 p.m. and see him 'ready for bed'. But, for Gary, putting on his pajamas is NOT synonymous with going to bed!
This night I found him lying on the floor of the Time Out room screaming at the top of his lungs. I walked over to the new staff person who was monitoring Gary in Time Out and asked how long he had been screaming. "Twenty minutes", she said.
About a week before coming on his cottage that Thursday evening I had taught Gary the short version of EFT. My strategy is to teach the child the sequence and have him or her practice it with me several times. I then guide him through teaching it to someone else using the philosophy that the best way to learn something is to teach it. Whenever possible, I have him teach it to his 'primary' staff person. (Each child is assigned one cottage staff as his or her primary contact staff.) The child and his primary staff then play with the exercise awhile.
Most children learn it quickly. The goal is for the staff to help the child remember to use the exercise the next time the child STARTS to become upset. It is important that staff intervene early. Once a child 'goes off' there is very little chance for calm interventions. As one of our staff put it; these children have a short circuit between calm and the fight-or-flight response.
When teaching the children I explain that this is a relaxation exercise that can help them calm down quickly. None of the children in our intermediate treatment facility come to us knowing how to effectively self-calm. Our residential program also teaches traditional relaxation techniques and uses every behavioral tactic to help the children learn to control and modify their behavior. But, until EFT, too many left our facility still not doing a very good job of self-calming.
So there was Gary. On the floor. One leg in the Time Out room--one leg out--screaming at the top of his lungs. I walked within his sight. He glared up at me still screaming. I glared back and tapped on the side of my hand. To my great surprise, he lifted his hand and began tapping, still screaming. I tapped the points and he followed, still screaming. I tapped the side of my hand again and he followed me through a second sequence, still screaming, but not so loud this time. So I dared a little smile and we tapped through the sequence again. The third time is the charm and Gary stopped screaming and smiled back at me. We had not spoken to each other.
The new staff person looked at me and said, "HOW did you do that?"
ANN ADAMS can be reached at: eft4PowerPoint.com