The way in which to properly intervene when an individual with a disability starts to escalate has been the subject of controversy over the past few years and for good reason. The misuse of physical interventions (restraints and holds) and time out rooms has caught the attention of the public eye, having many calling for the use of less intrusive interventions. Most school districts have been working diligently to adopt policies, procedures, and required trainings so that staff are equipped to meet the needs of students who are prone to escalate. While professional development is essential in this area, when we are talking about the safety and dignity of our students and educators this needs to be more of an ongoing discussion. The professional judgment of an educator in a moment of crisis can never be strong enough.
For the next two weeks I will focus on meeting the needs of those who escalate. In light of the autism tsunami, a disability that the educational community is still working to understand, I will look at de-escalation completely in the context of supporting those with ASD. I do not promise to have all of the answers, but rather just some of the filters of how to work both proactively and reactively in a less intrusive manner.
I will be doing all of this because the ongoing conversation on appropriate de-escalation is an urgent one . When you support someone who has the likelihood of becoming unsafe, every teaching moment of their learning day is essential. If we want to see these students successful and independent in life, we have to make self-regulation a priority. If we don’t teach our students the skills to cope with the stressors they face, then their lives will be defined not by the skills we taught but rather by the behaviors we failed to change. De-escalation is urgent not just because it is a matter of safety, it is a matter of empowerment.