“You can’t play with us, we are already playing together.”
When I observed Stefan at school I watched his body tense up and stiffen when the class of students joined at the carpet. I watched how his body relaxed and he sat far away from the group for reading his own books during stations. I watched as he went outside and took one peers hands and guided his friend to play his idea of block building. And again, I saw as his body stiffened when other kids came and asked to play too.

In isolation, Stefan would have looked like a mean boy. A kid unwilling to be with others unless it was his way. His voice was demanding and direct, and his body appeared so tense it was as if he would punch or kick someone.

But what I noticed was that Stefan’s body tensed not to harm others but rather to protect himself. He was overwhelmed and disorganized in large group spaces. He was unable to anticipate what others would do or how to join their ideas without losing his own. In therapy, he needed maximum support to articulate options of what peers would say in a group or how to engage in a social learning manner. He needed help but instead he was getting blamed for being a “bully” and was having kids get upset everyday at school and teachers talking endlessly about inclusion and anti-bullying.

First, I worked with Stefan to be aware of his body stance and responses to groups. We came up with a mutual way to stand, breath, and shift his body when in a group. We wrote and provided a visual guide so he could anticipate group interactions vs solo time. We asked specific kids to help him in planning a map of the play time and group scenarios in which he and the peers could have preset ways to take turns and ensure Stefan had a chance to lead even with more than one child (a challenge he found very overwhelming at first). Next, I spoke to his teachers and parents about replacing “bullying” language with factual movement words – ie. you are sitting closer to Sally and pressing your hands to shield out David. Now you may turn your body and face both Sally and David.

By recognizing the underlying needs of Stefan and acknowledging how challenging co-regulation, shared control and turn taking can be for a child – Stefan was able to gradually be inclusive and remove the fear out of these group dynamics. He became more inviting to others, felt and showed more relaxation in his stance, and ultimately was the sweet child he was always meant to be!

Everyday, I work with children of all ages and their families to support their communication styles, movement choices, and beautiful connections! For more ways to learn how to embody parenting and support your child through life, Email me at therapy@drloribaudino.com.

Please Note: These stories are based on real moments but all names, ages, and identifying information has been changed to ensure confidentiality and safety for all individuals involved. The events are a composite of related scenarios used to illustrate the work; bringing understanding to the benefits of supporting children through a mind/body connection.

Copyright 2017-2021. Dr. Lori Baudino, BC-DMT. All Rights Reserved

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