Intervening During the Escalation Cycle
Even if you conduct the most thorough functional behavioral assessment and flawlessly implement the best-designed behavior intervention plan, no plan is foolproof. There will still be times when an individual student may reach a crisis level and someone will be in danger of getting hurt. This does not mean you failed. Behavior management is tough stuff, and no one has all the answers. We always say that there is no such thing as failure in behavior management, only assessment. So what is best practice in these unforeseen, very difficult situations? The most important thing is to know your student.
Dangerous behavior almost never comes out of nowhere. There are usually signs that trouble is starting to brew long before behavior escalates to an unsafe level, and these signs are very student specific. Different sources call it different names such as the escalation cycle,1 the rage cycle,2 or the crisis development model,3 but the basic concept is the same. The student starts out calm (stage 1), some combination of setting events and triggering antecedents upsets him (stage 2), he gets increasingly upset (stage 3) and may become dangerous to himself or others (stage 4), and he eventually deescalates (stage 5) and becomes calm again (stage 6). (See Figure 17.1.)
If a student has a history of behavior challenges, don't wait until this individual is experiencing problems before intervening. Most intervention should happen at the calm stage, before any problems arise. This should include direct instruction in using calming strategies and helping students understand the natural and logical undesirable consequences if they do become unsafe. Parts Two, Four, and Five of this book provide multiple strategies for intervention at this stage.
To educators it can seem that a student is going through the day in a seemingly fairly calm manner, when something happens that upsets her world. We need to try to identify the antecedents to the crisis (setting events and triggering antecedents) and either remove them or provide additional support to minimize their influence. Once we become familiar with setting events and triggering antecedents that are common to individual students, crisis prevention becomes much easier because we are more likely to be able to accurately predict potential crisis situations and intervene early. Part Three of this book focuses on prevention and provides multiple strategies for intervention at this stage.
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