A new psychologist had been brought on staff. She didn’t appear to be receptive to my “vast” experience and wanted to figure things out on her own. When talking about the upcoming weather changes, she appeared amazed that she would indeed be expected to travel out in weather than would pale in comparison to the lower 48.
My duties had changed, too, due to the change in staff. I picked up several new sites including the juvenile detention center, the alternative high school and the residential treatment center. I had worked previously with incarcerated students, but only occasionally had I worked with students in clinical settings. I found it challenging to adjust to the rules. I wasn’t allowed to be alone with the students, the care providers often made mention of “fear of my safety”. I was not accustomed to being afraid of students. But these kids were of a different kind. Their experiences had created unfamiliar problems, sometimes the victims of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; their behaviors were often unmanageable. They had been abused and violated from the point of conception; the thought that they should care about another’s safety was foreign to them. I was not used to the lack of compliant behavior from students. I had to learn new ways to approach some students, students who were so clearly damaged.
One of the most challenging kids I faced during the second year was working in the residential treatment center. The student I worked with there made it very clear to everyone that he preferred to be somewhere else. Tantrumming was a minute by minute occurrence. He had been relegated to solitary: a room with no furniture, no door and someone outside of the doorway watching his every move. There was a window but it was too high to see out of. The only thing in the room with the student was a 600-piece puzzle. It had taken him about two hours to complete the outside frame of the puzzle. I sat on the floor with him, talking to him and slowly tried to get one piece in right. I failed miserably both at reaching the student and at the puzzle. He became agitated and the guard at the door was signaling me to get out of there quickly. I elected to stay, giving the student space, but not leaving. While I eventually left unharmed, I received a lecture about personal safety.