Self-Regulation Success with Rhythm and C.A.R.E.
There are plenty of noises one would expect to hear coming out of an I.S.S. (In-School-Suspension) room in an elementary school; a communal and steady beat on a hand drum is not usually one of them. Not unless you are at Ridgeview Elementary School in Liberty, MO, where Rob Leytham works. The C.A.R.E. room at Ridgeview provides a safe space for students to regulate, communicate and listen to their own bodies.
“The drum is the heartbeat here. We are going to slow it down,” Rob says. These practices are now so built into the culture at Ridgeview that once a month, students perform the drumming they have learned in the C.A.R.E. room at the school-wide Community Circle. What was once a referral for behavior is now something students are proud to share. When Rob was hired as the I.S.S. teacher at Ridgeview, he knew there needed to be a change in the way his school approached behavioral referrals. In his early years, Ridgeview was experiencing upwards of 6,000 behavioral referrals a year. Rob’s implementation of Conscious Discipline powers, skills and C.A.R.E. concept in conjunction with his percussion background and experience in Neuro-rhythmic Trauma Therapy has transformed how the I.S.S. room (now the C.A.R.E. room) is conducted and viewed, leading to a steady decline in behavioral referrals. Pairing the playing of hand drums with self-regulation skills proved to be a winning combination; so much so that Rob won Liberty Public Schools Support Employee of the Year for his impact on students and disciplinary referrals.
C.A.R.E. stands for “Calming And Recovery Environment.” It represents a fundamental shift in the ISS approach, from a place of punishment to a place where students are active participants in learning essential self-regulatory skills. The C.A.R.E. room provides a classroom-like setting where students are coached to self-regulate and solve conflicts in the moment. Most often, the C.A.R.E. room is for prevention purposes, utilizing specific Conscious Discipline powers, skills, and strategies such as the Kindness Tree, the Feeling Buddies and the Five Steps to Regulation.
Rob recognized the regulation needs of the students and set about creating a C.A.R.E room where students could be noticed, seen, and heard. “Kids are used to hearing things like, ‘I’m going to give you a reason to cry.’ In the C.A.R.E. room, we want to ‘give them a reason’ to feel loved, safe and connected.” And that is exactly what Rob does by actively engaging in and implementing The Five Steps for Self-Regulation (I Am, I Calm, I Feel, I Choose, I Solve) when dysregulated students walk through his door.
The first thing students encounter when they come to the C.A.R.E. room is the option of three places to sit. This provides students with an immediate sense of agency and choice, and time to cool off, settle down and feel safe. The C.A.R.E. room contains a well-equipped Safe Place that includes a light to signal staff when they are ready to interact. As soon as a student feels ready to talk, they turn on the light. Staff members then know they are ready to work through the Five Steps for Self-Regulation and can open a successful dialogue in a way that allows students to be seen, heard and taught.
While the benefits of the Five Steps were immediate and obvious to Rob, some teachers were skeptical about their effectiveness and that of the C.A.R.E room itself. The procedure was adjusted to include communication with the teachers to build a healthier School Family.
Now, once a student visits the C.A.R.E. room, they complete a written document based on the Five Steps and their problem-solving dialogue. “I write it all down and read it back to them, so they know they are being heard,” Rob says.
When a student is regulated and ready to return to class, a copy of the document is sent back to the student’s teacher. This step helps the teachers see how self-regulation techniques, including drumming, empower students to return to class in an Executive State. With this added information, support for the C.A.R.E. room quickly grew.
Ridgeview continues to see a decline in behavioral referrals. In the 2021-22 school year they were down to an average of only 4.5 referrals a day. In the 2022-23 school year, those daily referrals dropped again to 3.6- with about 80% of those students being the same “frequent flyers.”
Rob’s success with drumming in the C.A.R.E. room also led him to collaborate with Dr. Becky Bailey on the award-winning book and digital music combination titled, The Feeling is Bright: Self-Regulation through Rhythm and Rhyme.
- The Feeling is Bright: Self-Regulation through Rhythm and Rhyme
- Responding to Anger and Rage eCourse
- The Feeling Buddies
- The Kindness Tree
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