“Be careful. She hits and breaks things. She is very aggressive.” (child age 9, Audrey)
When I walked into the room, Audrey lunged towards me; arms outstretched and her fist moving directly towards my shoulder to make contact. While this seemed like an act of punching to which her family responded in a gasp “look out!” I acknowledged and observed the quality of lightness and sustainment in her movement from her elbow down towards her fist.
I acknowledged that for me, the qualities she was using in the movement were not hurtful and rather she had just been saying hello. She was making contact and she was ensuring that she would touch me way before I could even have an opportunity to reach or move her (which I had no intention of doing but that had been her experience with most other adults).
When I didn’t shutter, when I didn’t frown, when I didn’t yell out or pull away. Audrey smiled. She put her arm down and she stood looking at me. She began to sway. She moved side to side in a soothing rocking rhythm. Having my Dance/movement therapy focus, I turned this moment into a meaningful exchange. I noted verbally and followed in my own body a rhythm much like a heart beat. I acknowledged for Audrey that “I admired her way of soothing and caring for herself.” She moved towards a stuffed animal, picked it up and began to rock the toy in place.
Several times within my exchanges with Audrey, she would move towards someone or something with what was perceived as pressure or aggression. Everytime, I empowered the adults to see her need to feel her body, to find security and connection. That when we instead initiated movement with input (joint compression, movement in a rhythmic manner, or between one another) she would comply, soften and appear to engage appropriately.
The adult fear and the percieved idea of a direct, quick motion meaning aggression had limited Audrey’s relationships and kept others far away. Now she had new ways to be understood. Now she could move and find support without needing to push away. Adults in her care, started speaking to her before making contact and modeling for her other options for connection.
Do you know of a child who could use support? Everyday I work with children of all ages and their families to help them improve their lives. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (310) 966-0700 to schedule your time.
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.