Understanding Behaviour: Responding Safely

He moana pukupuku e ekengia e te waka. A choppy sea can be navigated.

How to prevent and avoid physical restraints.

It is now illegal to 'seclude' a child - somewhere where they can't or think they can't get out.

The only legal way (soon) to restrain a child will be if a child has an IPB.

You are safe to restrain if there is an imminent danger of physical injury to the student, other students or staff.

This is about keeping ourselves and the child safe - physical, emotional, reputational & legal.

Laughter - is great as long as it is not at someone else's expense.

Module 1: Understanding Behaviour

 Mā te kōrero, ka mōhio. Mā te mōhio, ka atua. Mā te matau, ka marama.
Through discussion comes knowledge.
Through knowledge comes learning.
Through learning comes understanding.

We need to understand the 'why' of behaviour.  There are aspects that are evident and visible and some that are obscured and hidden.

When we understand the why of behaviour, we can be more effective.

How we respond to a situation depends on how we see the world.

We also need to understand ourselves...

  • What you value and believe will influence how you interpret a situation
  • This is shaped by your individual experiences
  • When we understand ourselves, we can work towards understanding our reactions to behaviours that challenge us
  • What pushes my buttons?
I can only control what I do, think and believe...

If we manage our reactions and respond constructively, we increase the chance of a positive outcome. 

We typically react to the physiological effects of the stress response in one of two ways...
1. Active - run, throw, fight
2. Passive - freeze, hide, stop responding
We all have both active and passive responses to stress.  Usually one type of response is dominant so its more visible.

It is often the second incident that is worse than the first.  That is because there is cortisol still in the body and adrenaline kicks in faster.  If a child has high levels of cortisol, they will not remember.  This impacts learning, but also on how or what they remember of the specific incident.

Too much stress leads to hyper-vigilance, hypo-vigilence or both. We need to establish a safe environment for these students. 

Module 2: Encouraging ready-to-learn behaviour
We need to balance managing safety with teaching.
We play the long game: manage safety when we must, and teach behaviour to shift the balance over time.

We can also...respond to sensory needs, move the teaching to a different space, change the cognitive demand, model social situations etc

Change is hard to implement - it takes time and practice.  People like routine and predictability.

What is important for us?

  • be nice
  • start fresh/clean slate
  • consistency
  • relationships
  • clear expectations
  • predictability
  • time
  • nurturing
  • celebrating the small successes - celebrate and praise
We want to ensure that we promote emotional regulation so that students perceive the context as being safe, caring and supportive of them.

Non-verbal communication to calm a situation
  • not too close
  • beside
  • level
  • quiet voice
  • being present
  • sometimes silent
  • open, relaxed body language
  • reassuring
  • proximity
  • where you place yourself
  • body language
  • facial expression
Module 3: Responding Safely
Me he whakawhiti o te rā. Personify that of the sun.  That which removes adversity, brings calm and provides light. 

Ready to Learn
Students who:
* are engaged, are co-operative, accept feedback, follow directions, ignore distractions, accept praise, are ready to learn so we can teach rather than manage safety
...are ready to learn.

Be flexible, use choice, reinforce behaviours, reduce known triggers to keep this situation going as long as possible.  Don't shift the goal posts!

Out of Sorts
We notice a change in behaviour!  Facial features, behaviour, tense, jerky, tapping, negative self talk, challenging what they are asked to do...non-compliance, avoidance strategies, withdraws

We need to be aware - aware of the student and of our own behaviours.

We need to...

  • focus on reducing anxiety
  • try to understand the issue/find common ground
  • make structural/environmental modifications
  • provide task changes
  • ask how I can help to problem solve
  • remove triggers
  • be consistent with my responses
  • remember how my body language, facial expressions and the way I say things can increase of decrease anxiety
  • recognise emotions - "I can see that you are feeling..."
When a child is asking questions - answer, without escalating. Often a child will use questioning to distract. We are trying to get this child back to 'ready to learn.'

We might see...
  • anger
  • lying on floor
  • gaining attention
  • lashing out
  • student focused on controlling the stressors
  • increased distress level - something has happened
  • less reasoning ability
  • increased resistance and rigidity
  • provocative behaviour
  • threatening
  • getting personal
  • these children are loosing their reasoning
What might we do?
  • move to a quiet safe
  • redirecting other students
  • weighted vests etc
  • create space (physical and emotional)
  • reduce my talk and use more non-verbal communication
  • not take it personally
  • remove all triggering and completing maintaining factors
  • set a clear limit - establish and follow through with the bottom line
  • disengage from student
  • remain calm
Out of Control
I need to 
  • remember - safety first
  • stay calm - use supportive body language
  • keep the exits clear
  • name it to tame it
  • create space
  • remove any item that could be used as a weapon, it possible
  • activate safety plan
    • remove students from class
    • call for back up
    • exit the class
Calming Down
We see...
  • confusion but decrease in level of distress
  • attempts to deny, blame others, minimise the problem
  • less focus on threat
  • regaining rationality
  • an increased ability to listen and respond
  • exhaustion
  • a calmer more open demeanour
  • a withdrawal - shut down, very emotional
I need to 
  • ensure others are feeling OK and safe
  • give myself time to calm down
  • give the student time and space
  • remove and triggers
  • support and meet physical needs, such as water
  • meet emotional needs

Ready to learn
I need to...
  • reintegrate and support to engage in curriculum
  • restore relationships - may be simple or a full restorative process
  • maintain the calm, ready-to learn state by engaging the student

Motivate the mind
Acquire information
Search out meaning
Trigger the memory
Exhibit what is known
Reflect on what was learned


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