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To solve behaviour we must first understand it

If a child runs from the classroom and seals himself in the bathroom, raging, what can we teach him in that moment?

We can thank him for choosing to leave rather than harm or destroy. We can thank him for choosing a safe place to be and help him practice deep breathing in that moment. We can ask him if, when angry, he needs a quiet space to be alone?

In that small span of time, we have taught him through our modeling that it is possible to stay calm. We have taught him that he has made a good choice by removing himself to a safer space. We have taught him to recognize that perhaps he needs a quiet space. We can then teach him how to ask for what he needs when he first feels that sensation of anger or frustration.

No matter the situation, all behaviour is a teachable moment through modeling and determining with the child what they need to be successful and how to get there in socially appropriate ways.

Here we will discuss the "why" of behaviour and important foundational concepts of working with challenging behaviours at home or in the classroom.

Understanding behaviour

Getting to the root cause of behaviour

Letting go of the curricular side of things is incredibly challenging for teachers, support staff and caregivers alike. It is that short-term pain for long-term gain scenario. Most children struggling with behaviour are either not in a place to learn, (active crises or trauma, recovering from trauma regardless of the type) or unable to control the behaviours due to organic/medical issues, (complex needs: ADHD, ASD, FAS, etc.).

Behaviour is never a child’s “fault” it is merely a symptom of the “disease”. If you can shift your perception to view it this way, it is much easier to step back and see the big picture. Controlling it and changing it is about understanding it’s function and meeting the needs of that function so that we are teaching socially appropriate ways to get our needs met.

Understanding Behaviour

It is imperative when working with these special children to meet them where they are in that moment, and honour their perception because perception is all that matters. How we view ourselves and an event is unique only to us and if we are fighting against that in another, we end up in power struggles and crises.


We can use the example of a witness to a crime. If five people see the same crime each one will describe the scenario and perpetrator differently, even if only slightly, based on their own perceptions. These perceptions come from our life stories, our core beliefs and values, where we came from, what we believe, what we were taught, where we live, who we are culturally and so forth. Children are no different. How they perceive their lives or an event at school or how a teacher treats them, is unique to who they are. Changing perception is extremely difficult to do, therefore, it simpler to meet them where they are and work from there.


If a student believes another tripped him on purpose and he is raging and out of control, your conversation to meet him may look like this:

“I can see how angry you are. Tell me about that?”

 “Ok I understand that you feel Johnny tripped you on purpose. That must be frustrating. Tell me how that feels to you? What happened exactly? Is there something you could do differently in response?”


In this way you are accepting his perception and working back from there, to help the student see the truth rather than telling him his perception is wrong. In this way you are working with him rather than against. The reality of the actual event is irrelevant at the beginning. The only thing that matters is his perception in that moment and taking him to the truth by dismantling it carefully.


    When we look at Maslow’s Hierarchy we will find these students often at the bottom level of the pyramid. We cannot learn; we cannot be successful in society when our basic human needs have not been met.

Maslow's Hierarchy

Maslow (1943) stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs and that some needs take precedence over others. Our most basic need is for physical survival, and this will be the first thing that motivates our behaviour. Once that level is fulfilled the next level up is what motivates us, and so on.


The first four levels are considered deficiency or deprivation needs (“D-needs”) in that their lack of satisfaction causes a deficiency that motivates people to meet these needs. Physiological needs, the lowest level on the hierarchy, include necessities such as air, food, and water. These tend to be satisfied for most people, but they become predominant when unmet.  (Learning Theories, 2014)


Children do not create the situation they find themselves in but are victims of circumstance, environment, and genetics.                


There is always a reason for a child’s behaviour. As parents, caregivers, teachers, and support staff, we often struggle to see the big picture in how a problem has been created, but as life is about perception, the key is to stand back and look at the child as a whole within his circumstance in life. Find the root. With understanding comes solving.


Behaviour comes in many forms with a diverse array of root causes, which can be singular or multi-dimensional.  It is challenging, as successful programming must find a way to meet the needs of each root cause, yet be generalized enough to be effective in the classroom or home.


What is the root cause in most behavioural challenges we face at school, care centres, foster homes and home?


  1. Trauma: abandonment, homelessness, death (loss), poverty, cyclic poverty and low education, abuse (including over indulgence), neglect, lack of nurturing, severe or chronic health issues, war and violence. Trauma can be a singular event, multi-events or ongoing. 

Trauma often begets such disorders as: ODD, anxiety disorders, conduct disorders, attachment disorders, explosive disorder (IED), Disruptive mood dysregulation, PTSD, any impulse control disorder, neediness, etc.

  1. Complex needs: low cognitive issues, ASD, FAS, LD, speech and language delays, Global delays, etc.

  2. Anxiety and all its complexities:  PTSD, social anxiety, OCD, generalized anxiety, depression.

  3. ADHD/ADD.

  4. Sensory processing disorders


Trauma and the effect on education and life: 


For an excellent resource visit: Dr. Bruce Perry's, Child


I will speak mainly about trauma in this section as defiance/anger/rage disorders create the most severe issues we face at school, home and in society. They are also the most challenging to work with.


  • Most trauma students come to expect, accept and normalize that which the average person would find appalling. What is abnormal becomes normal.

  • They often live in chronic and cyclic poverty. They come to school hungry and carrying a huge sense of lack.

  • They have lived through trauma and crises or it’s ongoing: violence, poverty, abandonment, loss, foster-care, addictions, neglect, lack of nurturing... the list is long.

  • They lack guidance, trust, modeling, bonding, love, self-awareness, self-regulation and self-acceptance.

  • They have learning difficulties and are often behind in the curriculum due to their behaviours impeding success and progress. Is it a “can’t” or a “won’t”? Behaivour always gets in the way of learning.

  • Many have complex needs.

  • Many develop social anxiety.

  • They often lack motivation, self-love and often hold little value on life, especially their own.

  • They often lack social skills and an understanding of socially appropriate boundaries.

  • Bonding, friendship, relationship building are skills that often elude them.

  • Trauma due to loss or illness can also cause behaviours, anxiety and neediness.


How is over indulgence (spoiling) abuse:


I wanted to take a quick minute to address this as many of our students could be labeled in such a way but I would ask you to look at it from a different perspective.


  • Children have no control over their environment.

  •  If they have parents who allow them too much control out of lack of caring or interest or simply to keep them quiet or even out of a misguided sense of love, it is confusing for them.

  • If they have families who “over-do” for them, they learn that they are not capable and that someone else will always do everything: entitlement is born.

  • They often waiver from fear to dominance.

  • They know they need limits so they push to see exactly how far they will be allowed to go. This is how they have been raised. It can be a fearful, frustrating place for them. They know they are not meant to be in control.

  • They often feel incapable and unsure of their boundaries.

  • This is no less of an abuse of a child than any other. It sets them up for a lifetime of disappointment, frustration and poor relationships. They do not learn resiliency, coping, confidence, or independence.

  • They require a much firmer handling but no less kindness, as it’s not their fault.

  • These families require guidance and support in setting boundaries and structure for their children.


Understanding Behaviour: Why do children act out? What is the purpose?


What do we know about trauma children regardless of the root cause?

  • They often lack trust. The relationships formed in their lives have typically been painful, lacking in nurturing, lacking kindness and acceptance and most often their needs go unmet unless they act out.

  • Can come across as disrespectful.

  • An unwillingness to comply with those there is no relationship with.

  • Relationships are difficult to build.

  • Poor reactions to new people – staff or in life.

  • They tend to fight for personal control, as their home environments are often chaotic or extremely rigid with everything in between.

  • Creates power struggles with adults and friends.

  •  A constant need to control the environment and those in it.

  • Arguing with those in control.

  • Lack of compliance.

  • Unwillingness to join the group.

  • Vying with the teacher for control of the room.

  • Unwillingness to move from preferred to non-preferred tasks.

  • Their self worth is often very low though it may seem to be the opposite in some. Behaviours can occur that attempt to make themselves feel superior or more valuable.

  • Can come across as bragging.

  •  Putting others down.

  •  Teasing.

  •  Know it all behaviours.

  •  Neediness, clinging to adults or friends.

  •  Tearfulness, over sensitivity.

  • Arrogance in the over-indulged.

  • They often see school as a negative, pointless.

  • They seek attention, positive or negative.  They are always looking for a reaction, attention of any kind.

  • Neediness.

  • Calling out, interrupting.

  •  Acting out to call attention to themselves.

  • Wandering the room.

  • Touching others belongings – gaining a reaction.

  • They are conditioned to respond in socially inappropriate ways. They do not know differently. They react in the ways that have been modeled for them or through lack of modeling.

  • They do not know how to resolve problems: how to self regulate and self-sooth.

  •  They do not always understand what is appropriate and inappropriate touch.

  • They often speak disrespectfully or say things that are unacceptable.

  • They often respond to events, problems regardless of the size, with anger violence or tears.

  • They often over inflate the problem.

  • They are often fearful.

  • Hiding behaviours.

  • This can result in avoidance.

  •  Curricular fear or anxiety around new tasks.

  • They can be self- isolating.

  • They are often afraid to try new things.

  • They do not enjoy meeting new people; substitute staff can be an issue, new sitters or daycares.

  • They can suffer from depression.

  • Leads to self- isolating.

  •  Tearful.

  • Self-deprecating.

  • Lack of willingness to engage.

  • Lethargy.

  • Self harm.

  • They often react negatively to praise.

  • They do not feel worthy.

  • They do not trust you if you think they are good or awesome.

  • They often self-sabotage.

  • They can be afraid of success: success tells those in charge that they can do it and sets the precedent of expectation. That is a scary thing for these guys. They do not believe they can do it all the time. It feels like a huge burden to them.


What we perceive as manipulation in young children (non teens):


This is another term that often gets tossed around when dealing with behaviours in maladapted children.

  • Trauma children can often appear manipulative but truly manipulative young children are very rare.

  • These children are simply attempting to get their needs met the only way they know how, by manipulating the environment around them.

  • Many of them search for control as they have so little in their lives and school is a safe place to seek that control.

  • Through teaching and modeling we can show them how to get their needs met in more appropriate ways. If we do this we can break the need for maladaptive manipulation.


Intermittent Explosive Disorder and Disruptive Mood Dysregulation:


"Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD)  is a condition in which a child is chronically irritable and experiences frequent, severe temper outbursts that seem grossly out of proportion to the situation at hand." (Child Mind Institute)

"Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is a behavior disorder characterized by brief episodes of disproportionate anger and aggression. Onset is in late childhood or adolescence. A child or adolescent with IED can’t control his anger and will impulsively explode into rage with little or no apparent provocation. The pattern is often one of frequent, less severe outbursts  (tantrums, tirades, arguments or fights) that don’t do physical damage, punctuated by less frequent, more severe episodes that do cause injury to people or animals or damage to property." (Child Mind Institute)


I wanted to cover this separately as there is a group of known root causes and we can never truly know which it is or if it is a combination. I often describe these children or youth as resembling a light switch, it comes on that fast and often dissipates as quickly. On/off in repetitive, destructive cycles.


  • IED does seem to have genetic components.

  • IED is more common in males.

  • IED research shows there is some links to abnormalities in the brain.

  • IED is known to exist through environmental factors. Violence begets violence.


Behavioral symptoms:

  • Breaking or smashing things

  • Damaging property

  • Physically attacking people

  • Verbal aggressiveness

  • Excessive, unprovoked angry outbursts

  • Road rage

  • Self-harm


Cognitive symptoms:

  • Racing thoughts

  • Feeling a sense of losing control


Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Uncontrollable irritability

  • Low frustration tolerance

  • Periods of emotional detachment

  • Rage

  • Guilt

  • Shame

  • Extreme anger


So what is our role in creating success for these “behaviour” students at school?


  • These students need to be taught through positive reinforcement, as they have no intrinsic motivation. Nothing in their life makes them feel good about learning and they often have so much going on at home that school lacks relevance, other than it possibly being a safe place to be.

  • We have to teach them to love school, love learning, control their bodies, use their voices to get their needs met, and grow to seek reward simply through good grades and self-pride.

  • To be successful at school, a child must first have all their basic needs met: Enough food, support, safety and security. This is not the reality for many of these students. We must offer what they lack.

  • These students need to be taught and supported through strength based learning and love.

  • They need to be taught how to regulate their bodies. What is socially acceptable and sometimes what it looks like to be human and to live within the parameters of our society.

  • In the case of over-indulgence or learned helplessness, they need to be taught that they are only in control of themselves and that they are capable and their importance is the same as any other student. No more, no less.

How do we do this?


  • Show them love and kindness where they have none.

  • Teach them how to use their voice to get their needs met.

  • Teach them to identify and accept their feelings.

  • To see their value in the world.

  • To know that there is hope and that they can be successful.

  • To help them feel pride and confidence over every successful day and moment.

  • Teach them that they matter.

  • Teach through positive reinforcement programming.

  • Thank them for even the simplest act of compliance.

  • Teach social skills.

  • Teach and model self-regulation.

  • Teach the Zones of Regulation

  • Create a mindful, calm classroom and home for them to thrive in.

  • Use natural consequence not punishment.

  • Teach through absolute consistency.

  • Ensure a five to one ratio of positive to negative comments.

  • Never react to anger with anger.

  • Remind yourself it is not about you, no matter what is said or done.

  • Remember that every moment is a teachable moment, even if only by modelling calm in a crisis and showing kindness against rage.

  • Always demand repair work is done when there has been an incident: apologies, cleaning, repairs, or any other natural consequence to damage caused by behaviour.

Teachable moments:


“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” -Viktor E. Frankl


All behaviours and behavioural crises are teachable moments. Ask yourself, what can I teach in this moment? What am I teaching in this moment?  Every action has a reaction. If we are modeling calm in crises, peace toward anger; we are teaching that it is possible to control your emotions and to cope. Trauma kids live in the moment so we can only ask ourselves to live in the moment with them and not expect more than they can give or ask more of ourselves than we are doing.


If a child runs from the classroom and seals himself in the bathroom, raging, what can we teach him in that moment? We can thank him for choosing to leave rather than harm or destroy. We can thank him for choosing a safe place to be and help him practice deep breathing in that moment. We can ask him if, when angry, he needs a quiet space to be alone? In that small span of time, we have taught him through our modeling that it is possible to stay calm, we have taught him that he has made a good choice by removing himself to a safer space. We have taught him to recognize that perhaps he needs a quiet space. We can then teach him how to ask for what he needs when he first feels that sensation of anger or frustration.


No matter the situation, all behaviour is a teachable moment through modeling and determining with the child what they need to be successful and how to get there in socially appropriate ways.


Questions to ask them daily:

  • Have you had breakfast?

  • How was your morning?

  • How are you feeling?

  • How can I help you?

  • What do you need?

  • How can we make this work together?

  • What zone are you in? (Zones of Regulation)

No child is ever lost.

Strength based approach

As Cummins (1996) has insightfully stated, “Human relationships are the heart of schooling. The interactions that take place between students and teachers and among students are more central to student success than any method of teaching literacy, or science, or math. When powerful relationships are established between teachers and students, these relationships frequently can transcend the economic and social disadvantages that afflict communities and schools alike”.

A strength-based approach is a specific method of working with and resolving challenges experienced by the engaged person. It does not attempt to ignore the problems and difficulties. Rather, it attempts to identify the positive basis of the person’s resources (or what may need to be added) and strengths that will lay the basis to address the challenges resulting from the problems. The strengths of a person give one a sense of how things might be and ideas about how to bring about the desired changes (Hammond & Zimmerman, 2012).

Strength Based Approach

A school based strength based collaborative approach:

  • Seeks to understand the crucial variables contributing to youth resilience and well-functioning families/communities.

  • Provides a common language and preventative philosophy.

  •  Sees social capacity building and resilience as a common goal that provides a conceptual map to guide prevention and evaluation efforts.

  • Intervention strategies are youth driven and relationship focused – the story of the youth determines the resources to be introduced and drawn upon.

  • Engage all youth and their families with respect and compassion.

  • Perceives capacity building as a dynamic process that evolves over a lifetime.

  • Affirms the reparative potential in youth and seeks to enhance strengths as opposed to deficits.

  • Promotes successful change through a youth’s strengths and aspirations.


To effectively implement a strength-based practice, the core beliefs as listed in Principles of Strength-Based Practice (Hammond, 2010) provide a solid foundation:

  1. "An absolute belief that every person has potential and it is their unique strengths and capabilities that will determine their evolving story as well as define who they are - not their limitations (not, I will believe when I see – rather, I believe and I will see)."

  2. "What we focus on becomes one’s reality – focus on strength, not labels – seeing challenges as capacity fostering (not something to avoid) creates hope and optimism."

  3. "The language we use creates our reality – both for the care providers and the children, youth and their families."

  4. "Belief that change is inevitable – all individuals have the urge to succeed, to explore the world around them and to make themselves useful to others and their communities."

  5. "Positive change occurs in the context of authentic relationships - people need to know someone cares and will be there unconditionally for them. It is a transactional and facilitating process of supporting change and capacity building– not fixing."

  6. "Person’s perspective (perception) of reality is primary (their story)– therefore, need to value and start the change process with what is important to the person – their story, not the expert."

  7. "People have more confidence and comfort to journey to the future (the unknown) when they are invited to start with what they already know. Meet them where they are."

  8. "Capacity building is a process and a goal – a life long journey that is dynamic as opposed to static."

  9. "It is important to value differences and the essential need to collaborate – effective change is a collaborative, inclusive and participatory process – “it takes a village to raise a child”."

Collaborative Problem Solving:


In collaborative problem solving, the individuals join together to find a solution acceptable to both. It entails redefining the problem, discovering novel alternatives and focusing on overlapping interests. Neither person capitulates or dominates the other. No one looses or gives in because both parties benefit. This is often called a win/win way of dealing with conflicting needs. It has been found to be successful with an extraordinarily high percentage of typical problems, which occur between people.


Six Steps of the Collaborative Problem Solving Model:

  1. Define the problem in terms of needs not solutions.

  2. Brainstorm possible solutions.

  3. Select the solution that will best meet both parties needs and check possible consequences.

  4. Plan who will do what, where, and by when

  5. Implement the plan

  6. Evaluate the problem-solving process and at a later date how well the solution worked out.


Collaborative problem solving requires the use of listening skills, assertion skills and uses the conflict resolution method.

Creating resiliency

“Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.”― Gever Tulley

Creating Resiliency

I have borrowed this information from the best minds in our field and could find no more eloquent way of addressing resilience.

The following is from the Harvard Center on the Developing Child:


Reducing the effects of significant adversity on children’s healthy development is essential to the progress and prosperity of any society. Science tells us that some children develop resilience, or the ability to overcome serious hardship, while others do not. Understanding why some children do well despite adverse early experiences is crucial, because it can inform more effective policies and programs that help more children reach their full potential.

One way to understand the development of resilience is to visualize a balance scale or seesaw. Protective experiences and coping skills on one side counterbalance significant adversity on the other. Resilience is evident when a child’s health and development tips toward positive outcomes — even when a heavy load of factors is stacked on the negative outcome side. Over time, the cumulative impact of positive life experiences and coping skills can shift the fulcrum’s position, making it easier to achieve positive outcomes.

The single most common factor for children who develop resilience is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult. These relationships provide the personalized responsiveness, scaffolding, and protection that buffer children from developmental disruption. They also build key capacities—such as the ability to plan, monitor, and regulate behavior—that enable children to respond adaptively to adversity and thrive. This combination of supportive relationships, adaptive skill-building, and positive experiences is the foundation of resilience.


Children who do well in the face of serious hardship typically have a biological resistance to adversity and strong relationships with the important adults in their family and community.


Resilience is the result of a combination of protective factors. Neither individual characteristics nor social environments alone are likely to ensure positive outcomes for children who experience prolonged periods of toxic stress. It is the interaction between biology and environment that builds a child’s ability to cope with adversity and overcome threats to healthy development.


Research has identified a common set of factors that predispose children to positive outcomes in the face of significant adversity. Individuals who demonstrate resilience in response to one form of adversity may not necessarily do so in response to another. Yet when these positive influences are operating effectively, they “stack the scale” with positive weight and optimize resilience across multiple contexts. These counterbalancing factors include

  1. facilitating supportive adult-child relationships;

  2. building a sense of self-efficacy and perceived control;

  3. providing opportunities to strengthen adaptive skills and self-regulatory capacities; and

  4. mobilizing sources of faith, hope, and cultural traditions.


Learning to cope with manageable threats is critical for the development of resilience. Not all stress is harmful. There are numerous opportunities in every child’s life to experience manageable stress—and with the help of supportive adults, this “positive stress” can be growth-promoting. Over time, we become better able to cope with life’s obstacles and hardships, both physically and mentally.


The capabilities that underlie resilience can be strengthened at any age. The brain and other biological systems are most adaptable early in life. Yet while their development lays the foundation for a wide range of resilient behaviors, it is never too late to build resilience.


Age-appropriate, health-promoting activities can significantly improve the odds that an individual will recover from stress-inducing experiences. For example, regular physical exercise, stress-reduction practices, and programs that actively build executive function and self-regulation skills can improve the abilities of children and adults to cope with, adapt to, and even prevent adversity in their lives. Adults who strengthen these skills in themselves can better model healthy behaviors for their children, thereby improving the resilience of the next generation.

From Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg's, Fostering Resilience:


The 7 Cs: The Essential Building Blocks of Resilience:


Bottom Line #1:

Young people live up or down to expectations we set for them. They need adults who believe in them unconditionally and hold them to the high expectations of being compassionate, generous, and creative.

  • Competence: When we notice what young people are doing right and give them opportunities to develop important skills, they feel competent. We undermine competence when we don't allow young people to recover themselves after a fall.

  • Confidence: Young people need confidence to be able to navigate the world, think outside the box, and recover from challenges.

  • Connection: Connections with other people, schools, and communities offer young people the security that allows them to stand on their own and develop creative solutions.

  • Character: Young people need a clear sense of right and wrong and a commitment to integrity.

  • Contribution: Young people who contribute to the well‐being of others will receive gratitude rather than condemnation. They will learn that contributing feels good, and may therefore more easily turn to others, and do so without shame.

  • Coping: Young people who possess a variety of healthy coping strategies will be less likely to turn to dangerous quick‐fixes when stressed.

  • Control: Young people who understand privileges and respect are earned through demonstrated responsibility will learn to make wise choices and feel a sense of control.


Bottom Line #2:

What we do to model healthy resilience strategies for our children is more important than anything we say about them.

Fostering resilience in trauma children:

The following is Dr. Bruce Perry's work from the Childmind Institute:

Six Core Strengths for Healthy Child Development:

Violence is like a virus. In its many forms--on the news, in movies, on television, and in print--it can insidiously infect our children. Mysteriously, though, this germ can be virulent in some and barely noticeable in others. Why do some children re-enact the violence they see on television and others do not? Why do some chronically-teased children develop a sense of self-loathing, while others plot to shoot their taunting peers? Why do some children who make these murderous plans actually act on them?

It’s almost impossible to answer these questions. We can’t always pinpoint what makes a child violent. But we do know that by cultivating a series of core strengths in our students we can prevent them from becoming violent and offer them an antidote to the inescapable violence to which they’re exposed.

Each of the core strengths--attachment, self-regulation, affiliation, awareness, tolerance, and respect--is a building block in a child’s development. Together, they provide a strong foundation for his or her future health, happiness, and productivity. Following is a brief description of each strength and how to look for signs of struggle.

-Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D. Child trauma academy


ATTACHMENT: Making relationships

What it is: The capacity to form and maintain healthy emotional bonds with another person. It is first acquired in infancy, as a child interacts with a loving, responsive and attentive caregiver.

Why it’s important: This core strength is the cornerstone of all the others. An infant’s interactions with the primary caregiver create his or her first relationship. Healthy attachments allow a child to love, to become a good friend, and to have a positive model for future relationships. As a child grows, other consistent and nurturing adults such as teachers, family friends, and relatives will shape his or her ability for attachment. The attached child will be a better friend, student, and classmate, which promotes all kinds of learning.

Signs of struggle: A child who has difficulty with this strength has a hard time making friends and trusting adults. She may show little empathy for others and may act in what seems to be remorseless ways. With few friends and disconnected from his peers, he is also at greater risk when exposed to violence. Children unable to attach lack the emotional anchors needed to buffer the violence they see. They may self-isolate, act out, reject a peer’s friendly overture because they distrust it, or socially withdraw.

SELF-REGULATION: Containing impulses

What it is: The ability to notice and control primary urges such as hunger and sleep, as well as feelings such as frustration, anger, and fear. Developing and maintaining this strength is a lifelong process. Its roots begin with external regulation from a caring parent, and its healthy growth depends on a child’s experience and the maturation of the brain.

Why it’s important: Putting a moment between an impulse and an action is an essential skill. Acquiring this strength helps a child physiologically and emotionally. But it’s a strength that must be learned--we are not born with it.

Signs of struggle: When a child doesn’t develop the capacity to self-regulate, she will have problems sustaining friendships, and in learning and controlling her behavior. He may blurt out a thoughtless and hurtful remark, express hurt or anger with a shove or by knocking down another child’s work. Just seeing a violent act may set her off or deeply upset her. Children who struggle with self-regulation are more reactive, immature, impressionable, and more easily overwhelmed by threats and violence.

AFFILIATION: Being part of a group

What it is: The capacity to join others and contribute to a group. This strength springs from our ability to form attachments. Affiliation is the glue for healthy human functioning: it allows us to form and maintain relationships with others to create something stronger, more adaptive, and more creative than the individual.

Why it’s important: Human beings are social creatures. We are biologically designed to live, play, grow, and work in groups. A family is a child’s first and most important group, glued together by the strong emotional bonds of attachment. In other groups, such as those in school, children will have thousands of brief emotional, social, and cognitive experiences that can help shape their development. It is in these groups that children make their first friendships. Affiliation helps children feel included, connected and valued.

Signs of struggle: A child who is afraid or otherwise unable to affiliate may suffer a self-fulfilling prophecy: she is likelier to be excluded and may feel socially isolated. Healthy development of the core strengths of attachment and self-regulation make affiliation much easier. But a distant, disengaged, or impulsive child--one who is also weak in these other core strengths--won’t be easily welcomed in a group. And in fact, if he is part of a group, he may act in ways that lead others to tease or actively avoid him.

The excluded, marginalized child can take this pain and turn it on herself, becoming sad or self-loathing. Or she can direct the pain outward, becoming aggressive and even violent. Later in life, without intervention, these children are more likely to seek out other marginalized children and affiliate with them. Unfortunately, the glue that holds these groups together can be beliefs and values that are self-destructive or hateful to those who have excluded them.


ATTUNEMENT: Being aware of others

What it is: Recognizing the needs, interests, strengths, and values of others. Infants begin life self-absorbed, and slowly develop awareness--the ability to see beyond themselves, and to sense and categorize the other people in their world. At first this process is simplistic: "I am a boy and she is a girl. Her skin is brown and mine is white." As a child grows, his awareness of differences and similarities becomes more complex.

Why it’s important: The ability to be attuned, to read and respond to the needs of others, is an essential element of human communication. An aware child learns about the needs and complexities of others by watching, listening, and forming relationships with a variety of children. She becomes part of a group (which the core strength of affiliation allows her to do), and sees ways in which we are all alike and different. With experience, a child can learn to reject “labels” used to categorize people such as skin color or language. The aware child will also be much less likely to exclude others from a group, less likely to tease, and less likely to act in a violent way.

Signs of struggle: A child who lacks the ability to be aware of others’ needs and values is at risk for developing prejudicial attitudes. Having formed ideas about others without knowing them, she may continue to make categorical, often destructive and stereotypical judgments: "She speaks English with an accent, so she must be stupid," or "He’s fat, so he must be lazy." This immature kind of thinking feeds the hateful beliefs underlying many forms of verbal and physical violence.

TOLERANCE: Accept Differences

What it is: The capacity to understand and accept how others are different from you. This core strength builds upon another, awareness: once aware, how do you respond to the differences you observe?

Why it’s important: It’s natural and human to be afraid of the new and the different. To become tolerant, a child must first face the fear of difference. This can be a challenge because children tend to affiliate based on similarities--in age, interests, families, or cultures. But they also learn to reach out and be more sensitive to others by watching how the adults in their lives relate. With active modeling, you can build on your students’ tolerance. When a child learns to accept difference in others, he is able to value what makes each of us special and unique.

Signs of struggle: An intolerant child is likelier to lash out at others, tease, bully, and if capable, will act out their intolerance in violent ways. Children who struggle with this strength help create an atmosphere of exclusion and intimidation for those people and groups they fear. This atmosphere promotes and facilitates violence.

RESPECT: Finding value in differences

What it is: Appreciating the worth in yourself and in others. Respect grows from the foundation of the other five strengths. An aware, tolerant child with good affiliation, attachment, and self-regulation strengths acquires respect naturally. The development of respect is a lifelong process, yet its roots are in childhood.

Why it’s important: Your students will belong to many groups, meet many kinds
of people, and will need to be able to listen, negotiate, compromise, and cooperate. Having respect enables a child to accept others and to see the value in diversity. She can see that every group needs many styles and many strengths to succeed. He will value each person in the group for the talents he or she brings to the group. When children respect--and even celebrate--diversity in others, they find the world to be a more interesting, complex, and safer place. Just as understanding replaces ignorance, respect replaces fear.

Signs of struggle: A child who can’t respect others is incapable of self-respect. She will be quick to find fault with others, but can also be her own harshest critic. Too often the trait a child ridicules in others reflects something similar he hates in himself. The core of all violence is a lack of respect, for oneself and for others. When children feel no respect, they will likely become violent--because they value nothing.

These core strengths provide a child with the framework for a life rich in family, friends, and personal growth. Helping to teach children these core strengths gives them a gift they will use throughout their lifetimes. They will learn to live and prosper together with people of all kinds--all bringing different strengths to create a greater whole.

Focus on the Classroom Attachment: Be a Friend

What it means: The ability to form and maintain healthy emotional bonds with another person. First acquired in infancy through loving responsive caregiving, it develops throughout childhood, shaped at school by attentive teachers and caring peers.

Why it's important: This core strength is the cornerstone of all the others. Healthy attachments allow a child to become a good friend, a caring classmate, and to have positive and useful models for future relationships. In your class, over the course of the year, your consistency and nurturing will enhance your student's attachment skills. Students quipped with this strength are more secure and therefore more open to all kinds of learning-social, emotional, and cognitive.


Classroom Activities

Talk About It: Mirror, Mirror. What do we look for in a friend? Do we look for someone just like us? Why or why not? Ask students: What do you see in yourself that makes you a good friend? Make a list of qualities that students value in themselves. Then ask students to break into small groups and ask that they think about the strengths of others. Have them work as a team to compile a list of traits that they see in one another that make their team members able to be good friends. Compare these results with the original list. Ask: What's different and what's the same about these lists?

Try it: Fair Enough! To form authentic attachments, students need some ground rules about what you expect from them, what they expect from one another and what will happen if these expectations aren't met. Create a classroom "Bill of Rights" by asking students what they think is fair and friendly behavior. What words or actions can be encouraged and rewarded? Which are not acceptable and what consequences might occur? (Beware-your students may come up with harsher punishments than you ever would!) Discuss your feelings about their list, modify it with their help, and post it. For resources to use with students, visit


Red Flags:

When students struggle with the core strength of attachment, they:

  • have a hard time making and keeping friends

  • may have difficulty with trusting peers and adults

  • may show little empathy for others and may act in apparently remorseless ways * may self-isolate and reject a friendly overture because they distrust it

  • may be cruel to the animals and younger children in the school

  • are often easily influenced by aggressive and violent behavior because they lack emotional anchors-such as nurturing friends and teachers-to help them put it into perspective

What You Can Do To Help

  • Model good social language – eye contact, smiling, listening and positive-affirming touch

  • Use gentle humor and lightness in your tone; be aware of your body language so that students see that you are relaxed and accessible

  • Avoid sarcastic humor and be aware that your students are their own harshest critics

  • Record and observe anti-social behavior and share your concerns with parents

  • Encourage pairing and small group work that enables students to get to know each other


Self-Regulation: Think Before You Act

What it means: The capacity to notice and control primary urges such as hunger and sleep, as well as feelings like frustration, anger, and fear. Developing and maintaining this strength is a lifelong process. As they move through school, students continue to rely on your adult help to master this strength.

Why It's Important: Putting a moment between an impulse and an action is a life skill. Acquiring this strength helps a child physiologically and emotionally. But it's a strength that must be learned over time-we are not born with it. It's essential that teachers keep their expectations age-appropriate where self-regulation is concerned. For instance, it's unreasonable to expect a nine-year-old to be sunny and calm: fourth-graders worry about everything from the possibility of a rained-out class trip to global warming. In social situations and in school, the growing ability to self- regulate may spell a child's success and build self-confidence.


Classroom Activities

Talk About It: Truth or Tattle? Ask your students: What is the difference between telling the truth and tattling on a classmate? Elicit examples of truth-telling: when you do something wrong, when your friends ask you how you feel about something, and so on. Then ask: How is tattling different from telling the truth? Elicit examples of tattling. Explore one final idea: Is it always fair or right to tell the truth? to tattle?

Try it: Take a Breather! Worries and complaints are frequent at this age-and these are signs of stress. Try to integrate this "breather" into your weekly (or daily) schedule. Invite students to sit on the rug or other comfortable spot. Lower the lights. Turn on some soft and rhythmic jazz or classical music. Encourage students to close their eyes, breathe deeply and clear their minds. Have them listen as they inhale and exhale, and as you name body parts (face, neck, shoulders, arms, torso, legs, toes) tell them to breathe in and out and relax each one. Listen, breathe, and relax for at least five minutes. Plan a quiet activity to follow this "breather" and notice how focused your students are! For resources to use with students, visit


Red Flags
When students struggle with the core strength of self-regulation, they:

  •  Have problems with transitions

  • Do poorly in unstructured or free time

  • Often have difficulty with attention, listening and acquiring new skills

  • Have problems in groups and difficulty sustaining friendships

  • often act impulsively and cannot

  • rein themselves in

  • may blurt out a thoughtless remark or lash out at others without warning (moved from tolerance)

  • often express hurt or anger physically, by shoving a classmate or damaging others' work

  • May be very sensitive to criticism and aggression

  • often complain that they are being treated unfairly.

What You Can Do to Help

  •  In your words and actions, model self-control

  •  Step in quickly and stop any hurtful action or language you hear.

  •  Introduce the class to peer mediation and conflict resolution techniques.

  •  Praise students' thoughtful actions, remarks, reactions and problem-solving skills.


Affiliation: Join In

What it means: The ability to join others and to contribute to a group. This strength springs from a child's capacity to form attachments. Affiliation is the glue for healthy human functioning: It allows us to form and maintain relationships with others to create something stronger, more adaptive and more creative than the individual.

Why It's Important: Human beings are social creatures. We are biologically designed to live, play, grow, and work in groups. A student's school experience provides many opportunities to affiliate: with a friend, a small group, a class, and the school community. It's in these groups that students will have thousands of brief emotional, social, and cognitive experiences that help shape their personal growth. And in these groups students will also make stronger connections with peers: their first friendships. Affiliation helps students feel included, connected, and valued.


Classroom Activities

Talk About It: Tricky Cliques. Ask students: Do you know what a clique is? Explain that it's a group of friends who tend to exclude others. Ask: are there cliques in this class? In this grade? In this school? What's good about being in a clique? What's the down side?

Try it: Create a Class Tradition: Traditions bring people together as groups, with a purpose. Talk with your class about traditions they celebrate: family reunions, holidays, birthdays, and so on. Many of these include four actions: giving, sharing, working together as a team, and celebrating. Brainstorm with your students to think of a project, gathering, or outing as a class that could be the start of a tradition. Record, photograph and write about your tradition so future classes can follow it! For resources to use with students, visit


Red Flags

A child who is afraid or unable to affiliate well may:

  • be likelier to be excluded and may feel socially isolated

  • often have a problem with self-regulation or attachment

  • appear distant or disengaged and won't be easily welcomed into a group

  • in a group, act in ways that lead others to tease or avoid him

  • turn the pain of feeling marginalized on herself, becoming sad or self-loathing

  • seek out other marginalized children and unite around negative attitudes towards the other groups.

What You Can Do To Help

  • Find quiet time to spend alone with this child, to get to know better his/her interests

  • Actively facilitate this child’s participation in class groups

  • Enlist this child's help in an area of interest (for instance, have him read to a younger child, or show a classmate how to do something he is good at).

  • Establish clear guidelines with your class that emphasize and reward acts of kindness and inclusion, and provide consequences for unkindness.

  • Rearrange seating occasionally so that children can get to know and work with others.


Attunement: Think of Others

What it means: Recognizing the needs, interests, strengths and values of others. Infants begin life self-absorbed, and slowly develop awareness-the ability to see beyond themselves-to sense and categorize the others in their world. In young students, this process is simplistic: "I am a boy and she is a girl. Her skin is brown and mine is white." As students move through school, their awareness of differences and similarities becomes increasingly complex, and teachers play a key role in helping this strength develop.

Why It's Important: The ability to be attuned, to read and respond to the needs of others, is an essential element of human communication, not to mention school life. An aware child learns about the needs and complexities of others by watching, listening, and forming friendships with a variety of children. She becomes part of a group (which the core strength of affiliation allows her to do), and sees ways in which we are all alike and different. With positive experiences and guidance from you, a student can learn to reject "labels" used to categorize people such as skin color or the language another child speaks. The aware student will also be less likely to exclude others, tease, or act in violent ways.


Classroom Activities
Talk About It:
I Wonder Why? Invite your class to seek answers to some big questions. For instance: how do people get their skin color? What language do most people speak in our state, country, and nation? How many different cultures make up our school community? What are students in our grade worried about-and what would they like to do about it? Have students break into small groups to tackle one question, and use library resources, student interviews and polls to collect their data. Then share it!

Try it: Mirror Me! Here's one way to help students be better able to 'read' others: have them mirror each other's movements! Pair students and have them stand, facing each other, about four feet apart (or closer, if it works better). Designate one side as “doers" and the other side as "mirrors." Allow students to try mirroring each other for two minutes, then stop and ask: is this easy or hard? What might make it easier? Continue for 4 more minutes, then switch sides so the "doers" are now the "mirrors." When you're done, ask students: which did you like more-being a doer or a mirror? For resources to use with students, visit


Red Flags

When children struggle with the core strength of awareness, they may:

  • make insensitive comments about other children’s weaknesses without recognizing the impact

  • will tend to see things as absolute

  • form (often negative) ideas about others based on stereotypes

  • feel socially out of tune with others, so judgments of others may be harsh

  • be more likely to put down others to lift themselves up; ie, bullying or teasing

What You Can Do to Help

  • When you can, point out how a person or event in the news demonstrates complexity and goes against stereotypes (i.e., the US Olympic gold medalist in Greco-Roman wrestling who does not look “athletic.”)

  • Talk about "stereotypes." What are they? Are they fair? Why or why not?

  • Each week, notice and reward one "random act of kindness" you see in class. * Make sure that classroom materials are multicultural and reflect the world


Tolerance: Accept Differences

What it means: The capacity to understand and accept how others are different from you. This core strength builds upon the previous one, awareness: once aware, what do you do with the differences you notice?

Why It's Important: When your student first enters your classroom, everything is new and different...and probably a little scary. It's natural and human to be afraid of difference. To become tolerant, a student must first face that fear. This can be a challenge because students-and most adults, too-tend to affiliate based on similarities: in age, interests, families or cultures. But in this very multicultural world, with the help of your modeling, students can learn to reach out and be responsive to others. A tolerant student is more flexible and adaptive in many ways, and more receptive to all kinds of learning. Most important, when a student learns to accept difference in others, he becomes able to what makes each of us valuable and unique.


Classroom Activities
Talk About It: Bitter Behavior or Better Behavior? Ask your students to define prejudice. What causes people to hate each other, in their view? Explain that prejudice easily leads to violence. Can they see why? Talk about the choices people have in the way they treat one another: remind them that they have these same choices to make, every day. What can people do differently to wipe out prejudice? What can they do at school?

Try it: Face Facts. Pair students and give them plenty of markers and paper. Ask partners to face each other, seated. Encourage students to study the faces of their partners, and then to draw their portraits. These drawings can be realistic or symbolic, but they are meant to show the artist's partner how he or she is seen and known in the class. When one set of artists is done, switch roles. Be sure to have each artist share and explicate their portrait. For resources to use with students, visit


Red Flags

An intolerant child is more likely to:

  • very judgmental of others

  • verbally tease and berate others

  • introduce negative or destructive views into a group (e.g., “we don’t allow those kinds of people in our group.”)

  • physically intimidate or bully peers

  • claim to dislike groups and individuals, but in fact, fear them

What You Can Do to Help

  • Model in your actions and your words tolerance of ideas and people

  • Establish a zero tolerance for verbal and physical hurting in your class

  • Give students 'second chances' to make better behavior choices by roleplaying

  • Intervene immediately when you hear or see intolerant behavior

  • Create opportunities for students to share information about their families or backgrounds, including inviting special friends or relatives to visit

  • Talk about right and wrong, and encourage students' growing sense of morality

Respect: Respect Yourself and Others

What it means: Appreciating the value in yourself and others. Respect, the sixth core strength, springs from the foundation of the other five strengths. An aware, tolerant student with good affiliation, attachment and self-regulation strengths acquires respect naturally. The development of respect is a lifelong process, as students learn each of these core strengths and integrate them into their behaviors and world view.

Why It's Important: In school and in the larger world, students will belong to many groups, meet many kinds of people, and will need to be able to listen, negotiate, compromise and cooperate. Having respect allows a student to see the value in diversity. She can see that every group needs many strengths and styles to succeed. He will value each person in the group for the talents he or she brings to the group. When students respect-and even celebrate-diversity, they find the world to be a more interesting, complex and safer place. Understanding replaces ignorance, and respect replaces fear.


Classroom Activities

Talk About It: Both Sides Now. How do you learn respect? Sometimes it helps to listen-to both sides of a story. Think of a recent incident in class, or create a fictionalized one, in which two students argued or disagreed. Remind your students: Both children felt that they were right and the other was wrong; both were hurt. Using puppets or with your voice alone, retell one child's "side," and then the other's. Ask your students: What are some better ways this pair could have solved their problem? How can they show respect for each other even if they disagree?

Try it: Lunch and Learn. Create a bi- monthly class lunch and invite a family member or special friend of each of your students to join you . Ask your visitor to share a memory of growing up or to demonstrate a favorite hobby to the students. Divide students into small groups for questions-and-answers. Snap photos during the visit and have the class compile a scrapbook of these visits with reflections about what they learned. For more resources you can use with your class, visit


Red Flags

A child who struggles with the core strength of respect may:

  • be disrespectful to classmates and adults

  • be quick to find fault with others

  • be her own harshest critic and have difficulty finding value in her own strengths * ridicule traits in others that reflect something he does not like about himself

  • be more likely to act in malicious and cruel ways as they have fewer social and moral anchors

  • be more likely to dehumanize and degrade others

What You Can Do to Help

  • In your actions and your words model respect for ideas and the children in your classroom

  • When opportunities arise, talk about examples of respect and breakdown of respect from the news or the events of the classroom

  • Invite a colleague, school director or school psychologist to observe the class * Record your own observations in an anecdotal form

Dr. Perry is the Senior Fellow of the ChildTrauma Academy. Dr. Perry served as the Thomas S. Trammell Research Professor of Child Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and Chief of Psychiatry at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, Texas from 1992 to 2001. In addition he has served as the Director of Provincial Programs in Children’s Mental Health for Alberta, Canada, and is the author of more than 200 scientific articles and chapters. He is the recipient of dozens of awards and honors and is an internationally recognized authority in the area of child maltreatment and the impact of trauma and neglect on the developing brain.

Parenting for Resilience


Life is challenging and it is imperative that we teach our children how to cope with its challenges, even our anxious children.  We run around trying to make everything perfect for our kids, often fighting their battles and answering for them. The problem with this is that they then do not learn their own system of coping and responding to challenge and negativity. We cannot protect our kids from everything and we do them no favours by attempting too.


                It is our job to always be there and to protect from the “big things” but we cannot stop what is inevitable so we need to teach them to handle adversity and to problem solve.


How do we do this?

Teaching resiliency is about balance.


  • Do not over help, over do or over accommodate  - sometimes we can’t have what we want, sometimes there is not one there to help us, sometimes we must do things on our own. When forced to do for ourselves our natural problem-solving skills step in and we feel pride in our accomplishment. We learn that we are capable.

  • Avoid eliminating all risks – Allow children to try new things, safe risks, even if they or you are afraid. Again they learn that they are capable and resilient.

  • Teach (and model) coping skills – If the thought of a sleep over or camp scares them, rather than saying that they do not have to go – walk them through it and help them discover what to do if they feel scared or homesick. Remind them it’s only a short time and that they will have fun and if worse comes to worse they can come home.

  • Teach tangible skills – How to start a conversation if they are shy. How to make a new friend.

  • Teach and model appropriate social skills – friendship, relationships, sharing, kindness, following rules, listening to others respect…

  • Avoid why questions – rather than, why did you do that – try, ok you did that, now how are we going to fix it?

  • Don’t provide all the answers – never answer for your child. Allow them time to figure things out on their own.

  • Avoid catastrophic talking – if you are a nervous/anxious person yourself work not to pass that on by viewing situations negatively and talking in worst-case scenarios. Not – "I need you to learn how to swim so you don’t drown" but- "I want you to learn how to swim because it is great fun and a good skill to have".

  • Allow your children to make mistakes – Failure teaches us our greatest lessons. It is through failure that we learn to strive for success. Instead of panicking and attempting to help or fix allow the enviable to happen and then walk through the process with your child. Ok, you failed the exam, what comes next? What do you need to do? Everyone needs to face and accept the consequences of actions or of the enviable that is sometimes out of our control and now we can survive.

  • Teach self-regulation – model, practice and teach emotional regulation to your children. Teach them coping skills and concrete ways to handle their stress, disappointment, anger, sadness and frustration. They are watching you.

  • Model resiliency – What do you do in the face of adversity? If you can model strength and calmness - you will teach them how to do the same.

Adapted from Margarita Tartakovsky's, 10 Tips for Raising Resilient Kids.

Managing crises and


Common Assumptions

  1. I can’t let student get away with this.

  2. What will others think of my teaching?

  3. I need to establish authority.

  4. I need to settle down agitated students.

  5. I need to be in control, compliance is everything.

Managing Crises/Outbursts
Crisis cycle

Looking at the crisis cycle: Where can I intervene? What can I do?


Calm Baseline behaviours: In the green zone.

  • Able to follow directions.

  • Less likely to react to provoking situations.

  • Responsive to positive reinforcement.

  • Accepting of error correction.

  • Is interested in completing and showing work.

  • Is able to accept instruction.

  • Is willing to join the group with appropriate behaviours.


Calm Interventions: Proactive measure.

  • Structure physical space to fit students needs.

  • Establish, teach and reinforce all expectations with words and visuals.

  • Provide engaging instruction.

  • Provide clear, consistent structure. Predictability and consistency.

  • Conduct on-going assessments.

  • Teach and practice collaborative problem solving strategies.

  • Teach and practice social skills.

  • Teach, model and practice self-regulation skills and strategies.

  • Teach and practice mindfulness and regulation through breathing.

  • Be mindful of 5-1 positive to negative interactions.


Entering the crisis phase: The trigger! Know your students triggers.


Triggers: Behavioral Indicators: Yellow zone behaviours. Triggers can and will look like anything depending on the lagging skills, trauma and student perspective.

  • Non-preferred tasks.

  • Curricular fear/avoidance.

  • Sensory issues. (noise, lights, proximity)

  • Provocation from peers or staff.

  • Problem-solving situations. (Repair work, apologies can be very challenging)

  • Having to wait.

  • Having to face consequences for behaviour.

  • Power struggles.

  • Continued errors and correction.

  • Interruption of routine.

  • Long periods of sitting without a break.

  • Transitions.

  • New staff or students.

  • Lack of comprehension of instruction: clarity, cognitive, language.


Trigger Interventions:

  • Observe, identify and acknowledge the antecedent/trigger .

  • Modify the influence of the antecedent through programming, positive reinforcement, time warnings, classroom environment changes etc.

  • Offer alternative (replacement) behaviors.

  • Prompt use of a problem-solving routine. Have a clear routine.

  • Prompt the use of social skills.

  • Prompt the use of self regulation skills.

  • Prompt the use of body break or break space options…calming corner.

  • Refrain from “over talking” less is more. Use few words. Five or less whenever possible.


Agitation Phase: Behavioral Indicators – Yellow zone. Know your students tells.

  • Increased or decreased body/eye/hand movement. (wandering the class, standing up, eyes darting or looking away)

  • Clenched fists or gritted teeth.

  • Hoodies pulled up to cover head/head down.

  • Cryptic speech/no speech.

  • Questioning and arguing.

  • Non-compliance and defiance.

  • Verbal abuse.

  • Disruption.

  • Bothering others.

  • Leaving the classroom.

  • Touching others belongings or vandalism/destruction of property. (tearing up work or pulling things from the walls or displays)

  • Threats and intimidation.

  • Verbal outburst/crying.


Agitation Interventions: (children need personal space too.)

  • Provide quiet space away from others.

  • Allow thinking and processing time before repair work or tasks begin.

  • Give Teacher/aide support if desired.

  • Provide calm assurance.

  • Give concrete task with three-step instruction when study is ready.  Don’t rush the process.

  • Insure adult proximity.

  •  Give Choices that you are comfortable with allow the student some control and freedom within limits. Would you like to do this question or that one? Would you like to do three sentences or four?

  • Independent Activities

  • Encourage a movement break.

  • Encourage calming self-regulation strategies. Get back to green.

  • Offer preferred activities following the task.


Acceleration to peak: Behavioral Indicators – Red Zone Behaviours.

  • Uses engagement behaviors to get predictable response (questioning, arguing, provoking, whining).

  • Threats, intimidation, defiance.

  • Leaves classroom.

  • Physical aggression and violence/hostile behaviours.

  • Self-harming behaviours.

  • Serious property destruction – kicking walls, breaking windows, breaking chairs or electronics, etc.


Acceleration to Peak Interventions: Breaking red zone.

  • Call for help.

  • Provide reminders of strategies for calming.

  • Avoid escalating prompts – remain calm.

  • Co-regulate breathing. Breath with me.

  • Evacuate the area/classroom, remove the audience and safety first.

  • Maintain calmness, respect and detachment. Continue to encourage calming. Breath with me. We can talk when you are ready.  I’m here to help.

  • Approach student in a non-threatening manner if you feel it is safe, otherwise remain at a distance with occasional prompts to breathe and calm the body.

  • Offer regulation options - blow bubbles to promote breathing, play tapping games. Cross the midline.

  • Let go of any task demand until the crises is resolved, and student has returned to baseline green zone.

  • Alter the physical arrangement.

  • Use crisis communication.

  • Keep It Short and Simple (KISS) five words or less.

  • Do not attempt to restrain or move the student unless you are trained in MANDT or TCI. This should be a last resort.

  • Follow the Behaviour/crisis support plan.


De-escalation: Behavioral Indicators

  • Confusion/sadness.

  • Exhaustion.

  • Attempts to reconcile /repair work.

  • Withdrawal behaviors.

  • Responsive to concrete directions.


De-escalation Interventions: Back to Green Zone (baseline).

  • Thank them for calming their body.

  • Ask if there is anything they need in the moment.

  • Allow time and space.

  • Be empathetic, respectful, calm, kind and forgiving. Model the behaviours you wish form them.

  • When ready begin the problem solving piece and repair work.

  • Don’t push.

  • Return to normal activities.

  • If there is a suspension to happen go over the plan for re-entry with the student and the family.


Then let it go. Do not rehash or remind the student. Allow a new start.


Recovery: Behavioral Indicators

  • Willingness to resume routine, especially tasks that do not require interaction

  • Subdued behavior

  • Reluctance to talk about the incident

  • Denial of behavior


Recovery: Interventions

  • Focus on normal routine

  • Acknowledge appropriate behavior  (thank you for joining the group, thank you for lining up….)

  • Rehearse problem-solving routine – size of the problem. Yellow/Red zone strategies. Use social stories if involved.

  • Debrief when appropriate – introduce any repair work necessary.

What to say

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

-Viktor E. Frankl


When working with children struggling with behaviour, it is imperative that our language comes from a strength-based place. That we are always teaching and modeling that to get what we need we must use our words. Teaching that there is always a collaborative way to come at a problem.

What to Say

Before engaging, check your tone and body language and think about what you can say that will engage rather than enrage in that moment. The message that patience wins out and sometimes we have to wait. When we are appropriate and we wait, our needs can be met.


We want to make sure that our language, despite what we may feel in the moment, is thoughtful and encouraging, calm and patient. We teach what we model. We know that students who feel valued, cared for and just plain liked, perform much better despite behavioural issues.


We want to avoid the use of the word no as much as possible, especially at the start of a sentence, always remembering the 5-1 positive to negative ratio.  Get creative! Challenge yourself to come up with encouraging, patience building language.


Ask yourself, is this the hill I want to die on today?


Is there a way to collaborate? How can you both get your needs met? What can you let go of to create a win/win? What is my body language? How is my tone? Is what I’m asking realistic for this student? What is my teachable moment? If I am agitated or angry; why? What core values of my own are being nudged? Am I remembering that it is not about me?


Consider using social stories for younger children or complex needs around issues such as waiting, appropriate behviour and so forth.


Language to consider: Be creative!



  • That might work, how about if we discuss it after teaching time?

  • Ok, once circle time is over we will talk about that and see what we can come up with?

  • First we need to get through teaching time, then, we can discuss what you would like to do.

  • That’s an interesting idea. Let’s discuss it once we are finished here.


Always follow through on the discussion.


In an escalation: Always teaching that identification with what they are feeling. In complex needs a feelings chart can be used. Few words, less is more.


  • “Your body is telling me” that you are in the red zone (this is zones of regulation language you could choose other words). Would you like a break? What strategies can you use to get back to green?

  • Your words are hurtful and telling me you are in yellow. Please take a break and I will come back when you are ready to talk. I know we can both get what we need.

  • Your body is telling me you are frustrated? What do you need? How can I help you?

  • You are in red, yellow, blue zone. Please use your strategies to get back to green. What do you need?

  • Your words and actions are showing me you need a body break! What would like to do? Offer two choices. What do you need to do to get back to green?

  • Just breathe with me. We will talk when you are calm.

The effects of poverty

Children from low-income families often do not receive the required stimulation and do not learn the appropriate social skills to prepare them for school. Problems can involve: parental inconsistency (ie: daily routines and parenting), frequent changes in primary caregivers, lack of adult supervision and poor adult role modelling. This is not to say that all children in low income homes suffer.

Effects of Poverty

Important resources to read:

Here are some surprising facts you may not know about poverty and its impact on children in our schools:

1. Disadvantaged from the womb.

Cognitive ability is not just about genetics, it can be strongly influenced by external forces such as; prenatal drug use (resulting in FAS/FASD, exposure), environmental toxins, poor nutrition/malnutrition, and exposure to chronic stress and/or violence, anxiety over money concerns. All of these are more prevalent in low-income homes, and all affect cognitive development from prenatal to adulthood.

2. Less communication. 

A famous 1995 study by Hart and Risley demonstrated that by the age of four, children from poverty-stricken homes hear 32 million fewer spoken words than their more affluent peers.   Research has shown that the quality of the conversation is quite different as well. Parents with more education and higher income are more likely to engage children in ways that invite creative responses, while parents in poverty often lack the time, energy and knowledge for anything more than simple comments and task-oriented commands.

3. Poor sense Self/self control.

Children growing up in poverty often experience life as a series of explosive, crises ridden events that happen over and over which neither they nor their caregivers have any control of. Subsequently, they fail to develop a vision of themselves as free, capable people able to make choices and act on them to shape their own lives. They live reactively instead, simply responding to each new crises which is magnified by their poor ability to plan ahead or reflect. This doesn’t just affect educational success; studies have shown that a low sense of control over one’s life has major health ramifications in all areas, regardless of finances or access to healthcare.

4. Lower executive function.

Our executive function skills; impulse control, emotional regulation, attention management, task priority, and working memory pull from a limited supply of our mental energy. The day-to-day insecurities/fears of life lived in poverty, interferes with these functions by releasing stress hormones. The greater the poverty; the greater the affect. These hormones direct energy toward more basic primal survival mechanisms. Regular exposure in childhood can inhibit early development of the neural connections, which enable executive function, leaving children with both academic and behavioural issues.

5. More demanding society/environment.

In the recent past, availability of well-paid unskilled jobs created a cycle that allowed families to become part of the middle class within a single generation. Uneducated workers were able to raise stable families and send their children to college. In today’s “knowledge-based” economy, moving away from poverty is far more complex and takes many more resources. There is far more competition for unskilled work and the minimum wage has not kept up with inflation. Subsequently, attaining economic independence now requires more education, future planning, and higher interpersonal skills – precisely where low-income individuals lag to begin with.

6. It’s only getting worse.

Low-income students are four and a half times more likely to drop out of high school, and even those with academically prowess are far less likely to complete college than their counter parts.


Understanding Poverty and School Readiness:


School readiness reflects a child’s ability to succeed both academically and behaviourally in an educational environment. Being school ready is multi-faceted; it requires physical well-being, appropriate motor development, emotional health/regulation, a positive/reflective approach to new experiences, age-appropriate social awareness, age-appropriate language ability, and cognitive skills.

It is well documented that poverty decreases a child’s readiness for school in many ways: aspects of health, troubled home life, schooling and neighbourhoods.


The six poverty-related factors known to impact child development in general and school readiness in particular:

  1. Incidence of poverty.

  2. The depth of poverty.

  3. The duration of poverty.

  4. The timing of poverty ( age of child).

  5. The Community characteristics (concentration of poverty, crime in neighbourhood, and school characteristics)

  6. The impact poverty has on the child’s social network (including; parents, relatives and neighbours).


A child’s home life has a particularly strong impact on school readiness. Children from low-income/socio-ecconomic families often do not receive the stimulation required, or learn the social skills required to prepare them for school. Typical issues as discussed previously: parental inconsistency (with regard to daily routines and parenting), frequent changes of primary caregivers, lack of adult supervision and poor adult role modelling. Often, the parents of these children also are lacking support. They have also lived the same life. It’s all they know.


Canadian studies have also demonstrated an association between low-income households and decreased school readiness. Recent reports have concluded that children from lower income households score significantly lower on measures of vocabulary, communication skills, number skill, copying and symbol use, ability to concentrate, cooperative play with other children than their counterparts in higher income households. Studies have also found that schools with the largest proportion of children with low school readiness were from areas of higher social risk, including poverty. Thus, the evidence is more than clear. Poor children arrive at school at a cognitive, social and behavioural disadvantage. Schools communities are not in a position to equalize this tremendous gap and struggle with interventions.


Research by The Institute of Research and Public Policy (Montreal, Quebec) has shown that differences between students from low and high socioeconomic neighbourhoods was already evident by grade 3 in that, children from low socioeconomic neighbourhoods were less likely to pass a grade 3 standards tests.


So what can we do? Interventions:


Looking at the situation paints a dire picture. The reality for many families is that poverty is an intergenerational cyclic pattern where unstable and stressful early childhood environments/events lead to poor academic readiness, behavioural issues that lead to higher dropout rates, crime convictions, and teen pregnancies. There is hope.


Brain plasticity works both ways – reversal is possible.


Inhibited neural development in the early years of life can have a negative cumulative effect in later stages, but the trend can often be reversed with neural interventions that build up the elements of lagging executive functioning, allowing them to reinforce each other.


Interventions that are positive: training memory, training attention, processing, and sequencing abilities through computer programs like FastForWord, have had proven success in improved reading and math skill in elementary schools with high poverty rates. Training emotional regulation through, the Zones of Regulation, HeartMath and Mindfulness. Training social skills and social awareness through school programming. Training financial understanding and skill. There are many ways we can intervene and teach children the skills they need to recover the required brain responses.

Cultural Awareness

In this new culturally diverse climate, how do we incorporate cultural awareness in our classrooms?


I love to watch pre-school and kindergarten children play together. They are at that beautiful stage where even gender is almost irrelevant to them. They rarely care about race, colour, religion, disability or sex. They just see people, but this erodes quickly. So, how can we help to maintain that moment of stillness in which our students, our children, see past all outer shells to the humanity within us all.

Cultural Awareness

A start:


  1. Express interest and gather information about the ethnic background of your students.

  2. Be a facilitator rather than an instructor.

  3. Hold a strict level of sensitivity to language and dress concerns. 

  4. Tolerate no type of teasing or racism in your classroom.

  5. Allow students to present information to their classmates about their origins and lives. Celebrate a multicultural day.

  6. Respect and honour the traditional holidays and experiences of your students.

  7. Use the multi-intelligence quizzes, to show that we are all different, and learn differently.

  8. Use open dialogue that values everyone and repeats the mantra, that we are all equal, we are all important, we all matter and that we are all of one race and that the human race.

  9. Make sure students understand that diversity and what makes us unique and different is what also makes us who we are.

  10. Most importantly: Lead by example. Treat all of your students equally.

For ideas on teaching and supporting diversity in the classroom check out Barbara Biles' article: Diversity in the Classroom.

Promoting Respect for Cultural Diversity in the Classroom 

By Matthew Lynch, Ed.D. - Huffpost Blog


A primary goal of culturally responsive education is to help all students become respectful of the multitudes of cultures and people that they’ll interact with once they exit the educational setting.


This can be a daunting task for the educator, given that the world at large is infinitely more complex and diverse than the microcosmic environment that the student inhabits. In typical educational and social settings there is a marked tendency for students to exhibit classic in-group/out-group behaviors. 

In general, most students are comfortable interacting with people, behaviors, and ideas that they are familiar with but react with fear and apprehension when faced with the unfamiliar. Among its other goals, culturally responsive instruction aims to teach students that differences in viewpoint and culture are to be cherished and appreciated rather than judged and feared.


How might a culturally responsive educator push against human nature’s natural aversion to the unknown and help students become more respectful of cultures with different ideas?

The best way to combat this tendency is to provide students with ample evidence that people that don’t look like them are, at the core, people just like them. Such a viewpoint can be taught by promoting a culture of learning from one another rather than a culture of passing judgment on differences in values and beliefs.

There are a wide range of classroom activities that can help students recognize the essential humanity and value of different types of people. For instance, providing students with an opportunity to share stories of their home life, such as family holiday practices, provides fellow students with a window into their peer’s cultural traditions. 


Showing students everyday photographs of people of different ethnicities, shapes, sizes, and garb gives students the opportunity to see people that look very different from themselves and their family engaging in the same types of activities that they and their family participate in; this activity can help humanize types of people that a student has never had an opportunity to interact with personally. Welcoming guest speakers into the class that hail from differing backgrounds and have all made a positive contribution to important fields can also help dispel any preconceived notions that students might possess about the relative competence and value of people from different cultures.


Teaching students about multicultural role models also serves as an effective method for demonstrating that people of all genders, ethnicities, and appearances can have a positive influence on the world and deserve to be respected and emulated. It’s important to avoid teaching students about the same minority role models repeatedly; after all, if students never learn about prominent African American citizens other than Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X then it’s likely that some students will assume that few other African Americans have made substantial contributions to American culture and politics. If students are taught about the contributions that people of various ethnicities, genders, and creeds have made to a variety of different artistic, scientific, and political fields then they’re more likely to respect and value diverse cultural backgrounds as a whole.


In addition to tailoring classroom activities and lessons toward multicultural appreciation, it is critical that the educator provide students with a culturally responsive learning environment. Wall spaces can be used to display posters depicting cultural groups in a non-stereotypical fashion, students can mark the countries from which their ancestors immigrated from on a world map, and classroom signs can be hung in several languages. Such touches will help promote an environment in which students from diverse backgrounds feel more comfortable being themselves and will help insulate students from the cultural and ethnic stereotypes that pervade television and other mass media outlets.


Another important goal of culturally responsive education is to teach students to respect and appreciate their own culture and heritage. Minority students can sometimes feel pressured to dispose of their cultural norms, behaviors, and traditions in order to fit in with the prevalent social order.


When this happens it can create a significant disconnect between the culture of the student’s school and community lives and can interfere with emotional growth and social development, frequently resulting in poor performance in social and academic domains. Providing opportunities for students to investigate unique facets of their community is one effective way to help students gain a greater appreciation for their own culture. Having students interview family members about cultural practices and traditions or write about important learning experiences that the student has experienced in his home community are just two of the many ways that students can explore their heritage.


Using a culturally-centered instructional approach can help facilitate cultural pride among diverse students. Given the current federal and state preoccupation with standardized testing in core subjects, it is particularly crucial that educators multiculturalize core curricula such as math, science, reading, and writing. Providing diverse students with examples of diverse contributors to these fields and using culture-specific subject matter when teaching core topics will help them perform better in these highly scrutinized and important domains. Placing ethnically diverse students in a situation that emphasizes the strong points of their culture’s preferred means of learning may help provide them with a greater sense of self-efficacy and achievement.


Consistent exposure to positive role models is another excellent way to emphasize respect and admiration for the diverse student’s own culture. All too often, students are exposed to ethnic stereotypes on television and in movies. Providing diverse students with role models who demonstrate exceptional leadership qualities and make social contributions in a non-stereotypical way helps students recognize the limitless ways in which they can have a positive impact on society.

The unfixable child 

The unfixable child: severe behaviours due to

trauma and some complex needs


I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge us as teachers, support staff, administrators and caregivers.


We are not miracle workers. We are often dealing with children going through or having gone through some truly terrible, horrific things as well as poverty and poor modeling.


We cannot expect to repair the damage in a few months or even a year. Every improvement not matter how small, every good day is a success for them and for us. They will never be “fixed”, they may struggle throughout life and we can only hope to and ask of our ourselves, to make a difference for them; to guide them on a better path with the possibility of a functional future.

The Unfixable Child

You cannot learn when your basic human needs have not been met.  We are here to teach many things:

  • To show them love where they have none.

  • To teach them how to use their voice. That it is their strongest ally.

  • To identify and accept their feelings.

  • To see their value in the world.

  • To know that there is hope and that they can be successful.

  • To help them feel pride and confidence over every successful day and moment.

  • To teach them that they matter.


Trauma kids live in the moment and we can only ask ourselves to live in the moment with them and not expect more than they can give or ask more of ourselves than we are doing. We must meet them where they are.


It takes time, love and patience to heal. We can't rush it or feel discouraged during those difficult days. We can only persevere and take pride in the work that we do day in and day out.


We are making a difference!

“I am a teacher. It's how I define myself. A good teacher isn't someone who gives the answers out to their kids but is understanding of needs and challenges and gives tools to help other people succeed”.  -Justin Trudeau

Understanding trauma

ACES - Adverse Childhood Experiences

I have seen many studies and though most have the same 10-12 ACEs others include experiences that I know from my own work to be just as damaging. The lists that hold up to 15 resonate the most with what I have seen in my work and in my life. As the studies continue, our understanding of trauma will continue to grow offering us greater opportunity to prevent and support.

Understanding Trauma

The tally of how many adverse childhood experiences have occurred in childhood is known as the ACE score. The higher the ACE score, (multiple or continuous trauma) the greater the impact on behaviour and life development, (physical health, at risk behaviours, substance abuse and mental health).


  • Physical

  • Emotional/verbal

  • Sexual


  • Physical

  • Emotional

  • Abandonment

Household Environment:

  • Domestic violence

  • Substance abuse

  • Mental health illness

  • Parental divorce

  • Caregiver separation/death/prolonged illness

  • Family member incarceration

  • Witnessing abuse of another family member (for some children this can include loved pets)


  • Continued bullying

  • Witnessing violence(war, gang, etc.)

  • Discrimination

  • Homelessness

  • Natural disaster

  • War

Child health

  • Chronic illness

  • Serial hospital stays

  • Serious illness

The long term effects of adverse childhood experiences (trauma):

ACE pyramid jpeg.001.jpeg

What is child trauma?

Reading the articles on Dr. Bruce Perry’s website is imperative to understanding trauma and PTSD in our students. Trauma can be a one-time event, ongoing events, multi events or active crises.


How "States" Become "Traits"

How does this affect our students in the classroom?

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network compiled the following information in their 2008 Child Trauma Toolkit for Educators:


One out of every 4 children attending school has been exposed to a traumatic event that can affect learning and/or behavior.


Trauma can impact school performance.

  • Lower GPA

  • Higher rate of school absences

  • Increased drop-out rate

  • More suspensions and expulsions

  • Decreased reading ability


Trauma can impair learning.
Single exposure to traumatic events may cause jumpiness, intrusive thoughts, interrupted sleep and nightmares, anger and moodiness, and/or social withdrawal—any of which can interfere with concentration and memory.


Chronic exposure to traumatic events, especially during a child’s early years, can:

  • Adversely affect attention, memory, and cognition

  • Reduce a child’s ability to focus, organize, and process information

  • Interfere with effective problem solving and/or planning

  • Result in overwhelming feelings of frustration and anxiety

Traumatized children may experience physical and emotional distress.

  • Physical symptoms like headaches and stomachaches

  • Poor control of emotions

  • Inconsistent academic performance

  • Unpredictable and/or impulsive behavior

  • Over or under-reacting to bells, physical contact, doors slamming, sirens, lighting, sudden movements

  • Intense reactions to reminders of their traumatic event 

  • Thinking others are violating their personal space, i.e., “What are you looking at?”

  • Blowing up when being corrected or told what to do by an authority figure

  • Fighting when criticized or teased by others

  • Resisting transition and/or change

  • Soiling or wetting


You can help a child who has been traumatized.
• Follow your school’s reporting procedures if you suspect abuse
• Work with the child’s caregiver(s) to share and address school problems
• Refer to community resources when a child shows signs of being unable to cope with

traumatic stress
• Share Trauma Facts for Educators with other teachers and school personnel


Sexualized behaviours:

The following is from the Centre Against Sexual Assault & Family Violence


Age appropriate sexual behaviours 5-7 years old

  • Self touching including masturbating

  • Show me yours/I'll show you mine with same age children

  • Like to hear and tell age appropriate dirty jokes

  • Playing mummies and daddies

  • Kissing/holding hands

  • Mimicking or practicing observed behaviours eg pinching a bottom

Concerning sexual behaviours

  • Continually rubbing/touching own genitals in public

  • Persistent use of dirty words

  • Wants to play sex games with much older or younger children

  • Continually wants to touch private parts of other children or staff

  • Chronic peeping behaviour

Very concerning sexual behaviours

  • Touches or rubs self persistently in private or public to the exclusion of normal childhood activities

  • Rubbing genitals on other people

  • Forcing other children to play sexual games

  • Sexual knowledge too great for age

  • Talks about sex and sexual acts habitually

  • Soiling or wetting at school on a regular basis

  • Inappropritate boundries


Age appropriate sexual behaviours 8-12

  • Occasional masturbation

  • Show me yours/I'll show you mine with peers

  • Kissing and flirting

  • Genital or reproduction conversations with peers

  • Dirty words or jokes with peer group

Concerning sexual behaviours

  • Attempting to expose others' genitals

  • Sexual knowledge to great for age once context is considered

  • Pre-occupation with masturbation

  • Single occurrence of peeping, exposing * obscenities, pornographic interest (sources include the internet, pay TV, videos, DVDs and magazines)

  • Simulating foreplay or intercourse with peers with clothes on

Very concerning sexual behaviours

  • Compulsive masturbation, including task interruption to masturbate

  • Repeated or chronic peeping, exposing obscenities

  • Chronic pornographic interest (child pornography *, sources include the internet, pay TV, videos, DVDs and magazines)

  • Degradation/humiliation of self using sexual themes

  • Degradation/humiliation of others using sexual themes

  • Touching genitals of others without permission *

  • Sexually explicit threats - written or verbal *

  • Forced exposure of others' genitals *

  • Simulating intercourse with peers with clothes off.

  • Penetration of dolls, children or animals *

* For children and young people aged 10 - 18 these behaviours may constitute criminal offences such as Indecent Assault, Indecent Act or Assault (Common Law)


Age appropriate sexual behaviours 13-18

  • Sexually explicit conversations with peers

  • Obscenities and jokes within the cultural norm

  • Sexual innuendo and flirting

  • Solitary masturbation

  • Kissing, hugging, holding hands

  • Foreplay with mutual informed consent and peer aged partner

  • Sexual intercourse plus full range of sexual activity

Concerning sexual behaviours

  • Sexual preoccupation or anxiety

  • Pornographic interests – unusual amounts/types

  • (sources include the internet, pay TV, videos, DVDs and magazines)

  • Promiscuity

  • Verbal sexually aggressive themes or obscenities

  • Invasion of other's body space

Very concerning sexual behaviours

  • Compulsive masturbation (especially chronic or public *)

  • Degradation/humiliation of self using sexual themes

  • Degradation/humiliation of others using sexual themes

  • Chronic preoccupation with sexually aggressive pornography (sources include the internet, pay TV, videos, DVDs and magazines)

  • Child pornography *

  • Attempting to expose others' genitals

  • Touching others' genitals without permission *

  • Sexually explicit threats (verbal or written) *

  • Obscene phone calls, exhibitionism, voyeurism, sexual harassment *

  • Sexual contact with significantly younger people *

  • Sexual contact with animals *

  • Forced penetration *

* For children and young people aged 10 - 18 these behaviours may constitute criminal offences such as Indecent Assault, Indecent Act or Assault (Common Law)

Global Developmental


Global Developmental Delay (GDD) is a condition that occurs during the developmental period of a child somewhere between birth and 18 years. It is typically defined with the child being diagnosed with having lower intellectual functioning than what is perceived as ‘normal’. It is usually accompanied by significant limitations in communication. It is known to affect approximately:  1-3% of the population.

Global Developmental Delay

What are the causes of GDD?

The most common causes of GDD are chromosomal and/or genetic abnormalities such as Downs Syndrome and Fragile X syndrome.  Another cause can be abnormalities with the structure or development of the brain or spinal cord, such as cerebral palsy or spina bifida.

Other causes can include premature birth or infections/disease, such as Congenital Rubella or Meningitis.

There are a numerous diagnostic tests that can be performed to identify the underlying cause of GDD. Sometimes these causes can be treated to cure the developmental delay, or at least to prevent it from worsening. However, the cause is often never able to be fully determined.

What are the signs of GDD?

The most common signs of GDD can include:

  • An inability to sit on the floor without support by 8 months;

  • An inability to crawl by 12 months;

  • The child has poor social skills/ judgment;

  • An inability to roll over by 6 months;

  • The child has communication issues;

  • The child has fine/ gross motor difficulties;

  • The child displays aggressive/dysregulated behaviour as a coping skill

In some children GDD is suspected soon after birth due to feeding difficulties or lack in muscle-tone. In others it is suspected later on when learning and/or behaviour difficulties occur at school.

GDD Classroom resource:

Learn Alberta - Global Developmental Delay: Medical/Disability Information for Classroom Teachers.

Theraputic Crisis

Intervention (TCI)


TCI is formal training in crises intervention and de-escalation during the crises cycle. It teaches us the skills to use in volatile situations, how to be proactive and when to be reactive if necessary. It is training that I believe, all school staff should have. Many crises can be avoided and/or de-escalated without incident, with the right knowledge, skill set and management.

TCI Training

Another form of crises training is the MANDT system. It is also highly valuable and works effectively with complex needs in particular.


Please visit the Cornell website for information on TCI training: TCI Cornell University


Please visit the MANDT website for information on MANDT training.

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