Working With My Daughter’s School Team to Alleviate Her Stress

How crisis intervention techniques can benefit students with special needs

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by Jackie Babiarz |

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Before this school year began, I attended a nonviolent crisis intervention training session, held by the Crisis Prevention Institute, for the school district where I’m teaching adapted physical education. This annual training for educators and staff covers physical intervention, verbal de-escalation, behavior management strategies, trauma-informed care, and restorative practices.

As an educator, I’m fully aware that I do not know what happens before a child comes to school. A child’s behavior may result from something going on inside or outside the classroom. But children with special needs aren’t always able to communicate their needs or explain why they’re agitated or acting out, and many lack important coping tools. That’s why crisis intervention techniques can be particularly helpful.

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My Dad and I Share the Same Passion for Education

During the seminar, I couldn’t help but think of my own daughter with special needs. Cammy, 13, has Rett syndrome, which essentially makes her a prisoner in her own body. She is unable to walk, talk, and use her hands. She has temperature regulation and respiratory issues. She wears orthotics. Gastrointestinal problems can arise as well. On top of all that, she is a teenager going through the same changes as everyone else in middle school.

There are a number of things that can make her stressed or uncomfortable but are out of her control. Fortunately, the staff at Cammy’s school doesn’t have to worry about her running off, hitting, screaming, or performing any self-injurious behaviors. When she’s in an uncomfortable or unfamiliar situation, her defense mechanism is to fall asleep or moan incessantly until someone figures out how to calm her.

I have worked with the school staff to help them figure out how to soothe Cammy in times of need. First, they try to find out what is wrong by asking Cammy to communicate using her eye-gaze device. Sometimes Cammy will indicate that a part of her body hurts, and other times she’ll express a feeling like sadness. Next, her aide will remove her from the setting and go for a walk around the building. If that doesn’t work, her team will remove her braces and lay her out on the beanbag chair to provide her some relief. Rarely, it ends up being a “Rett day,” where we all just need to be patient and ride it out.

All children are different. There is no single way to intervene, de-escalate, and care for a student. Special needs or not, learning how to communicate with and help a child is crucial. Training is so important to a school staff, but the parents’ advice can also help the staff intervene with coping tools that are specific to that child. I have found that giving Cammy’s staff any information I can helps them tremendously.


Note: Rett Syndrome News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Rett Syndrome News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Rett syndrome.

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