Responding to Nonverbal Behavior

WORKSHEET 3: Responding to Nonverbal Behavior

Background: It is the beginning of your intake interview with Tommy, a nine-year-old-boy. He has a learning disability and shows mildly disobedient behavior at school. Right now, he is behaving in a very withdrawn manner and is responding to you only in monosyllables. You know he is currently in danger of being retained, for the second time, in the fourth grade. He has lived in three different foster homes since being severely abused by his father when he was in the first grade. He hasn’t seen his father in two years. Children and Youth Services is having this family situation evaluated to see if termination of parental rights is appropriate. If termination is considered appropriate, Tommy can be made available for adoption and have a permanent home.

Instructions: Use information from Tommy’s nonverbal cues to help him become more aware of his nonverbal behavior and what it might mean. Make one comment that relies solely on sense data. In the second comment, tie the nonverbal cue to a possible feeling state. When you identify a feeling, state it in a tentative way so that Tommy can consider whether it is accurate or not. Use the background information to help you judge what his feeling state might be.

Scenario 1. You ask Tommy to talk about his dad. Tommy is staring at the clenched fists in his lap and saying nothing. His face is red.

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Scenario 2. You ask Tommy if he knows about Children and Youth Services’ plan to terminate his father’s rights so that he can be made eligible for adoption. Tommy’s face looks pained. He responds to your comments by sinking more deeply into his chair.

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Scenario 3. Tommy is silent. His face is white as a sheet in response to your question about how he would feel if his father tries to regain custody of him.

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Scenario 4. You tell Tommy that he might be asked to testify in court if the judge wants his opinion about terminating his father’s parental rights. The judge may ask him if he wants to return to his dad. He has curled up in the chair, and no part of his face is visible.

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