Non-Violent Crisis Intervention

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS

ABC learningI was reviewing some articles about special education service delivery and came across a list of current issues that are on the minds of SPED teachers and leaders. One of them was:

How should children with disabilities be disciplined when they pose a threat to school staff and to other students?

Teaching is an isolating activity; at least it certainly seems so at times. Between the bells, you are in a room with 15 students who are diverse in many ways. They have different intellectual abilities, some have physical disabilities that need special attention and some, if not most, have behavioral issues that affect the way your classroom is managed on a day-to-day basis. This behavior piece has always been my greatest challenge. What is the balance between discipline for a single incident of misbehavior and a consistent plan or approach for managing difficult behaviors among all of your challenging students?

Obviously, the latter is what you aim for. Once you have a consistent plan in place and everyone knows the rules, shouldn’t things fall into place and discipline become easier? It certainly can become easier, but there are always incidents of behavior that defy your classroom routine. Some students bring pain and emotional stress into your classroom that you cannot even imagine. The stress is like an overfilled balloon; it eventually needs to be released, and you are the only thing keeping the explosion from hurting that student or others in your care.

SPED teachers receive some specialized training in defusing tensions, but this never seems enough when a child explodes. When the explosion becomes a fight between two students, the instinct is to jump in and pull them apart. We know from our training, though, that this is the wrong thing to do. You could be injured, thus leaving no one in charge, and further injuries can happen. The procedure is always to get assistance. I remember when classrooms had no phones and we had no idea what a cell phone was.

teacher timeA few years ago, we brought in a crisis intervention team to provide training for our teachers in handling just such events. We used a company called CPI; they sent a team to our district and managed a four-day seminar in non-violent crisis intervention including restraint training: how to touch or otherwise handle a student in crisis who needs to be restrained so he doesn’t hurt himself or others. It was one of the best investments we’ve made for our staff. It was so effective that we’ve expanded the training to our entire staff on a voluntary basis. We may even make it mandatory. One of the great things they provided was to give extra training to some of our own teachers in a teach-the-teacher model so we could do our own training after they left. We used a combination of city and grant funds (IDEA federal funds) to transport, house and pay the team for their efforts.

During the training, the word respect kept popping up, and it’s an important element in the training. If all parties are respected during an episode that requires physical restraint, the procedure is easier and certainly much safer. The word respect seems to calm people down somehow. Emotions can run high, especially among children who have few resources to manage them. Once the initial incident is defused and the child is returned to the classroom, teachers can work together to try to find out why it happened in the first place. It may be necessary to bring the parents in to see if there’s something in the environment at home that is causing problems. When the whole family is involved, problem solving can proceed more effectively.

Obviously, this is a greatly simplified description of how a school district can approach behavior management programs.

Some resources for finding solutions:

Let me know how your school or district manages behavior.


Grant Name: Ross Foundation Educational Grants

Funded By: The Dorothea Haus Ross Foundation

Description:  Giving on a national basis to advance the moral, mental, and physical well-being of children of all races and creeds; to aid and assist in providing for the basic needs of food, shelter, and education of such children by whatever means and methods necessary or advisable; to prevent by medical research or otherwise the mental and physical handicaps of children. Funding also provided for the research of pediatric diseases.

Program Areas: Disabilities, Early Childhood, General Education, Health/PE, Special Education

Eligibility: Private School, Faith-based, Other

Proposal Deadline: Ongoing

Annual Total Amount: $400,000.00 – $560,000.00

Average Amount: $1,000.000 – $15,000.00

Address: 1036 Monroe Avenue, Rochester, NY 14620

Telephone: 585-473-6006

Email: info@dhrossfoundation.org

Website: The Dorothea Haus Ross Foundation

Availability: All States

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IEP Team and Materials Inspection

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed. MLIS

teacher timeLast time, I talked about treading the fine line between cutting costs and providing the best possible services to our kids within the constraints we see. If balanced properly, we can support our SPED kids to make sure their capabilities are maximized. That is our goal. The Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams we employ to study each child’s school environment are keys to finding these solutions.

To review: IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) describes the IEP team as including:

  • The parents of the child
  • Not less than one regular education teacher of the child (if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment)
  • Not less than one special education teacher of the child or, when appropriate, not less than one special education provider of the child
  • representative of the public agency who is qualified to provide or supervise the provision of specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities, knowledgeable about the general education curriculum and knowledgeable about the availability of resources of the public agency
  • An individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results
  • Other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related services personnel as appropriate (invited at the discretion of the parent or the agency)
  • The child with a disability (when appropriate)

I’d like to focus on the individual in the fourth slot who is “qualified to provide or supervise the provision of specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities.” Because this individual is key member of the team, we usually invite our curriculum director and, when practical, our library media specialists to supply this service. At first, the director was reluctant; they said they had many other jobs to do and attending IEP meetings was very time consuming. After attending a few meetings though, they understood how important it was to be sure our recommendations for SPED services were aligned with the core standards we are all embracing. The way to supervise specially designed instruction is to stay tightly linked to the standards and in turn improve the curriculum and instruction for all students. SPED curriculum offerings have become very sophisticated over time; they can help us fine-tune our instruction for best results.

I have cautioned about bringing in sales reps to sample new wares for teaching all kids. The truth is that there really is no other way to make ourselves aware of the best of what’s out there. Once a month or so, you might have a meeting with key people where companies can come in and show their products. Wearing lenses with nonsense filters helps, and we’ve all developed these as we have seen the best and worst come across our desks. The instructional analyst on your SPED IEP team might be a key person to coordinate the meetings.

The way to approach it is to isolate areas in the curriculum that are weak for all students based on your data (I keep going back to data, but it has become essential), prioritizing the areas and then inviting company representatives who can explain what their products can provide in these areas.

How do you know the best companies? Networking with other districts that have similar demographics and needs helps. A few phone calls to your counterparts in other cities can inform you of new curriculum offerings. Read reviews online. Department heads can help too. It may not be necessary to have them attend IEP meetings, but you can interview them to see what’s on their wish lists for books and software. A key person for evaluating books and programs is your library media specialist. Everything passes across their desk and he/she will be very helpful.

So, damn the budgets (at least for now). Let’s look at all that’s out there so our instructional team can find the best for our kids. Going in to an IEP meeting with a plan and decisions made about best practices in advance can save time for busy people. It’s always best to be proactive instead of reactive.

There are some good resources to help you evaluate curriculum products here:

Tell us if your district has a plan in place for reviewing SPED programs and materials and maintaining great educational services.


Grant Name: Foundation Grants

Funded By: Standard Charitable Foundation

Description: At The Standard, caring about people is a core value reflected in our commitment to the communities across the United States where our employees live and work. We provide corporate philanthropic support to nonprofit organizations working in the following four areas: Healthy Communities, Disability and Empowerment, Cultural Development and Education and Advancement.

Program Areas: Adult Literacy, After-School, Arts, At-Risk/Character, Community Involvement/Volunteerism, Disabilities, Early Childhood, Family Services, General Education, Health/PE, Homeless, Math, Reading, Safe/Drug Free Schools, Science/Environmental, Social Studies, Special Education, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)

Eligibility: Public School, Other

Proposal Deadline: Ongoing

Average Amount: $5,000.00 – $25,000.00

Address: Public Affairs P12B 1100 SW 6th Ave, Portland OR 97204

Telephone: 971-321-3162

Website: Standard Charitable Foundation

Availability: All States