There is no part of an escalation that is fun to support. Items get thrown, papers are ripped, and academic learning is disrupted. Educators are expected to be quick on their feet, quick to clean up, and quick to communicate home the events that took place. Teams are tasked with determining what went wrong, what could be changed, and how to make that change happen ASAP. The only celebrations we have around escalations are when they cease to happen.
But in an escalation for a child with autism there is found confusion, an inability to cope, and suffering. These experiences multiplied over time can set a tone for life. As Temple Grandin says, “Fear is the main emotion in autism.” With the number of potential triggers that the individual may face in their world each day, you wonder how they even muster getting out of bed in the morning. But they are able to do it each day for one simple reason: because they are brave. You will not find it in the DSM-V, but a requirement for having autism in the world today is being brave. Fighting through extreme sensory experiences, decoding odd social rules, and dealing with the stresses of the unpredictable all require bravery.
At the heart of an escalation for a child with autism you will find a person who is doing their best at being brave. And in those moments that their skill sets have failed them, the person with autism needs the educator to be brave for them. With the running, screaming, or pounding this can be difficult, but we must remember the learner’s perspective. We must remember that they don’t want the escalation to be happening either and if they could stop it they would. We must do our best to support them in the least intrusive way, we must be as brave as they are every single day.