Cheryl Seagren
Post count: 3

I am a school counselor as well as a registered play therapist. Last year, as students returned full time to the classroom following Covid, students and staff felt overwhelmed, and teaching/learning were very difficult.

The counseling staff at my K-5 school realized that we needed new ways to approach helping those in our care: Kelso’s Choice is informative, but not what was called for at that time. We designed workshops and lessons to help staff, students , and parents become aware of when they felt overwhelmed, understand what was happening in their bodies/brains, and learn ways that they could bring themselves back to the present. We worked throughout the year to embed mindfulness into everyday practices in the classroom as well as teaching about the window of tolerance along with interoception. It was more successful with some teachers and classrooms than with others.

That was the beginning of my own journey to understand stress and brain states in myself and others. I have noticed that my body gives me clues as to when I am feeling stress and dysregulation…it is often my stomach, heart, and breathing that are affected. I struggle to slow down and pay attention, but when I realize what is happening, I try and realize that I need to be kind to myself and practice self-care and self-compassion. This also explains some of my behavior that doesn’t “make sense”!

An awareness of stress reactions and brain states helps when working with staff, students, and parents as well. I try to remember that behavior is a communication tool and there is always a reason for how a child or adult is acting. I may not like what they are doing, but there is a reason for it. I need to remember and respect this as I help the other person get back into their window of tolerance.

Some teachers are really good about understanding that a child who is in the fear/terror mode won’t be able to reason or do math until their “smart brain” in back online. Other teachers just want the student to fall in line and do what they are asked. Teaching understanding of brain states and stress response is a tough sell with these staff members.

Finally, I am interested in including information about brain states and stress responses in FBAs. These are often just behaviorally-based, but I feel that we are missing out on a huge component of how to understand the student and help them be successful.