Thursday, September 3, 2009

Update From the Wolf Den

We're trying to unravel the mystery of Wolf's difficulty achieving a Level high enough to maintain privileges and feel a sense of satisfaction for a job well done. After 15 months, a pattern has developed; rise to high Level, stay a week or so, do something to jeapordize, fall to bottom Level, become frustrated, rinse, repeat. It is frustrating enough for the adults in his life, but it must be horribly so for Wolf.

The CHYC Level System, as a review, is based on blocks of time during a student's day, during which time their every action, word choice, or activity is monitored, from accomplishing personal hygiene tasks to interacting with peers and staff. Stars are awarded for positive behavior throughout the day, with an overall star at the end of the day. Thus the student sees clearly it is his or her responsibility, and no one else's, that will cause the rise and fall of a certain Level.

Higher level kids get all sorts of goodies; trips to Target, the museum, even river rafting, skiing, and swimming outings. The incentive program works well, for most. But Wolf still struggles.

What we all have noticed is that when a big event occurs (we visit, the Super Level approacheth, holidays, etc.) Wolf seems to panic, becoming nervous and anxious as to his ability to hold on to himself enough to make it to, or through, said event. A small infraction occurs, not enough to cause a level drop, but enough to make him believe it is forthcoming, and Boom, down he falls, figuring, as he said yesterday "I blew it so it doesn't matter anyway". Not true, but he believes it, and the slide backward is so dramatic that everyone now holds their breath.

So what do we do? A planning meeting is commencing at school to see if Wolf can be allotted smaller chunks of time with more reward during the day, allowing for his self-esteem to build gradually in a constructive way. He went out to breakfast with Unit Director and Director of Care (a very hip guy who wishes he could pack up and move to Alaska, a decision I would wholeheartedly support); taking time with people who care so much about him that they would spend time with a kid who believes, deep down, that he is not worth much.

Yukon is traveling down in a few weeks on a part work-part play mission. Wolf is beside himself with excitement, and staff have promised, knowing the relationship the two have, that there will be plenty of opportunity for fun. It will be a good opportunity to see how the new plan is working and make adjustments. I'm crossing fingers, toes, and whatever else I can that it works.

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