Day 7 of ASD De-escalation Tips: Empower the Learner


When staff go through the diligent process of filling out an escalation cycle they need to remember to involve the most important person on the team: the student.  As thought out as the staff’s approaches might be to support de-escalation, they can still be terrifying to a child with autism who thrives on predictability.   We are going to have the greatest success with a learner when they know their entire escalation cycle just as well as we do.  Something similar to the picture below can be extremely empowering.

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It looks a little different from the escalation cycle document and that is ok.  The point is to optimize understanding for the student, so the use of creative language and visuals may be needed.  If appropriate you can tap into the child’s “highly restricted interest” and use it to your advantage to help speak a language that they can understand.  I made the below scale with one of my high school students years ago and it helped make all the difference.  He was a Star Wars fanatic and this spoke to him.

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“Anxious” or “Angry” can be difficult to remember and connect with for a learner with autism, but if they are linked to an interest they can be much more relatable.  In creating this scale the key was that I did it with the student.  In my understanding Darth Vader is the worst character in all of Star Wars.  However my student felt he was almost a good guy.  Had I just created this myself and put Darth Vader at the top, this scale would have had made much less sense to the learner.  What worked out really well was that our strategy for when he became fidgety was deep breathing, which is Darth Vader’s specialty.  However you express it, make sure that your student is just as equipped as you when working through a time of crisis.  It can help you see better outcomes while empowering your student for the future.

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