DESCRIPTION OF THE SUCCESS STORY
This is a story of a 6th grade 12-year-old student with an obsessive compulsive disorder, integrated into school in a Special Needs Education Programme, who frequently displayed crises of aggression and violence in school. These started at the end of the 2nd period of 2010/2011, when he was attending the 4th grade at the age of ten. His mother has been very collaborative with the school environments and also very concerned with her son’s personal, emotional and social balance. The family consists of four people, mother and stepfather, the student and one sister, and there is good affective relationship between all the family members.
At the beginning of the school year mentioned above, the student was discouraged by his studies, did not want to study and the mother could not discipline him. During a crisis, the student isolated himself, became absentminded, displayed coninuous movement, bit himself, banged his head or hit his legs with his hands. At first, the student was directed to the family doctor, who diagnosed him with hyperactive behaviour. As crisis became more frequent at school and the student displayed violent attitudes towards those who tried to approach him, he was directed to frequent medical appointments at the local Hospital and the stduent was eventually directed to a reputed medical team led by a neurosurgeon (Dr Lobo Antunes). Under the care of this medical team, the student was submitted to several medical tests until he was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, combined with symptoms for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). It was at the same time that the student was integrated into the Special Needs Education Programme at school.
For his successful integration at school, the student has to follow daily routines and rituals, eg. his mother has to follow the same route to school every day. He does not respond well to sudden changes, and if anythig breaks his routine, without hhim having the knowledge that it will occur well in advance, the student reacts badly. He gets really anxious and reacts without thinking, which causes risks (for example, escaping from school; crossing the streets without looking whether cars are coming ...). The student has intrusive/obsessive thoughts and the way to circumvent them is by performing certain rituals like hitting his legs several times or going to the bathroom several times. If the student is not allowed to perform these rituals he becomes violent and has repeated furious attacks. However, currently, due to the medication he takes, he is more self-controlled.However, the student shows difficuly in expressing his emotions (e.g. crying) and has difficulty with some senses (for example, he can’t feel ‘cold’).
The student's transition from the 4th to the 5th year, with the support of a psychologist, a psychiatrist and a special needs education teacher resulted rather well. The student integrated well both in class and at school. His behaviourial crisis stopped. The student is now more serene, interested in school.
Besides the support and good relationship of the student with the head teacher, the special needs education teacher managed to establish empathy with the student. Togenther with the student they reflected every week on the positive aspects as well as negative aspects of his behaviour, thus managing to improve the student’s attitudes and performance. The student improved his educational attendance record during the 2nd term ( of the schoolyear 2012/2013), from a poor attendance record to a satisfactory one. However, it is acknowledged by teachers and supervisors that the student needs some time to do things and that he requires rules and methods to create his own work routine.
The mother has requested the support of the Social Services at school, and the social worker managed to establish a good relationship with the student in the initial phase of his crisis. They worked on positive reinforcement of the student’s personal and social development.
The fact that the student was Integrated at school into a Special Needs Education Programme was also helpful to create conditions for his academic and social success.
Through work with specialized support staff (special needs education technicians, psychologist and social worker, who worked together), appropriate strategies were implemented. These were the key to this student’s success as in many similar situations. The close link of the staff with the family was also paramount since the mother gave important feedback to teachers on the student’s behavioral routines and identified what made him feel comfortable. Empathy and routine were the two keywords for the success of this particular student diagnosed with severe behavioral dysfunction.