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Can We Change This Behavior?

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Lily Bronson

on 25 July 2018

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Transcript of Can We Change This Behavior?

Using Neuroscience and Psychology to Make the Most of the Special Education Process
Some Objectives and Drawbacks of the Special Education Identification and Intervention Process
The activation of the fight or flight response is adaptive.
We must learn to manage this reaction to
the needs of the situation.
Neuroplastic change requires repetition in order to be permanent.
The following process can be applied at the individual, team and systems levels.
What can we change?
Factors that Cannot be Changed
Factors within our control to change
Effective Use of Emotional Tools
So how do we change?
Prior Trauma
Biological Responses
Situational Stress
A Little Neuroscience
What happens when everyone goes home?

Stress is a ghost, it can haunt you.
Generalized or carryover stress can cause you to begin a new task at a higher "number" before any situational stressors exist.
Chronic stress in work environments can lead to burnout and disconnection from the purpose of tasks.
McEwen, 1998
Signs of major stress in a parent/child/professional that should be directly addressed during the Special Education Process
What we often forget
Let's talk turkey!
What can we do to minimize and manage conflict during the special education process?

Background knowledge
Managing expectations
Building awareness of signs of conflict
Recognizing activation of fight or flight
Using emotional tools Keeping the goal in mind
Use a facilitator/mediator/advocate
Identify the educational needs of the student.
Inform the team of current strengths and needs.
Develop appropriate accommodations/treatments/interventions.
Establish consensus on mutual goals and interventions amongst the team members.
To deliver effective services that lead to growth and change.
Let's try an awareness activity
Did You Notice?
The process brings with it inherent aspects of conflict.
If not managed well, it can create an "us/them" phenomenon.
The possible mismatch in emotional vs. intellectual investment for the members.
Assumes a level of background knowledge in multiple fields that isn't necessarily realistic.
Aspirational desires are constricted by realistic restrictions
Common Triggers for Fight/Flight/Freeze
Usually triggered by a strong emotion including fear but could also be triggered by anger or anxiety
Direct threats
Implied threats
Loss of resources

Where are the Facilitators and Mediators?
Training Your Brain. How To Respond To Conflict
The Conflict Path
When people sense


It's difficult to move from roles to interests
How can we move?
window of tolerance
Pleasure over anger
Practical Steps to Minimize Conflict
Power Balance
Joint Agenda/Agreement Creation
Address and Normalize Tension
Plan Your Escape/neuroplasticity

Short Term Stress= Survival

Long Term Stress=Toxicity

Systems Process
Signs of our own stress
signs of stress in others
Level of activation at the onset of the task.
Situational factors such as heat and cold, hunger, fear etc.
Effective Use of Emotional Tools
Whose responsibility is it to manage conflict throughout the special education system?

School Administrators
Para Professionals

This portion of our training will focus on the biological mechanisms of stress and the effects of stress on the mind, body, behavior, and systems we work in.

Pick a conflict...

Managing Level of Activation

Front Load Coping Strategies
Identify Your Number (take your temperature)
Engage in a Strategy
Take Your Temperature
If you are below a 7, continue, below a 5-6, re-engage in the task.
If you are above a 7, change strategies.
Stress is Subjective
It is very difficult to objectively quantify.
This is why doctors, hospitals, therapists and other professionals often use a universal symbol that standardizes the experience of stress.

Dr. Tony Attwood championed the use of the
feelings thermometer
with children on the Autism Spectrum. His general techniques are the basis for the techniques we will teach you today.
Freaking Out
Thinking brain
takes a back seat.
I'm going to read and present an exerpt of an actual IEP Meeting I attended within the last several years.
Please consider the following:
What signs of activation of fight or flight do you perceive?
How is stress managed or mismanaged during the meeting?
What situational factors/language/setting details do you think contribute negatively or positively to this meeting?
Often have no idea how the system or the law work
Are emotionally activated
Have often been inappropriately prepped
They know more about their child than anyone else ever will
Are constrained by the rules and regulations of their field
Genuinely want to help
Must follow a sequence of events during the special education process
Possess specialized knowledge and skills that can add to the education of the child
Have feelings and opinions about the process themselves
Benefits of Facilitation and Mediation in Special Education

Improves relationships
Models appropriate communication
Clarifies messages
Provides opportunities to resolve conflicts in the moment
Identifies previously unknown options
Typically lower general stress than regular meetings
Supports follow through
PACER Center of Minnesota
Thank You So Much
Clare Fowler, EdD

Lesley Cook, Psy.D.

Common Triggers
Unclear Roles
Resource Scarcity
Value-based Conflict
Lack of Validation
Feeling Attacked/Defensive
Previous Negative Experiences
Value-Based Conflict
External Stressors
Common Exits to Conflict
Feeling Safe
Feeling Heard/Understood
Physiological changes
What's my part in this?
How do I treat you?
Body Language
Change in perspiration, heart rate etc.
Decrease in questions and increase in directive statements
Any others?
Setting factors
Where was everyone before the meeting?
When did the stress begin?
The tone was positive and supportive, why didn't the parent feel supported?
What opportunities were missed?
Yes our brains are wired to sustain conflict. By understanding why the self and other are in conflict we can move towards a place of understanding.
What tools are you using to lower the "temperature"?
Ideas from previous groups:
Moving--taking time to stretch, yawn, etc.
Discuss something good--about student, week, etc.
Bring in video of kids
Communication training for teachers/staff
Evening info session for parents about process
Be brave enough to acknowledge tension
Thermometer of feelings in the room
Acknowledge frustration
Recalibration--putting your stress in perspective
Telling the family story

The team calls in Ms. Smith and her sister who have been waiting in the front office for the meeting to begin. When they enter, they see 10 people sitting at the far end of a round table.They are greeted warmly and asked to sit. The care coordinator introduces herself and asks that the other professionals do the same. When it comes to Ms. Smith, she introduces her self as "just the mom". The team then shares the rights and responsiblities of the parents and hands them a copy of their rights in printed form. They pull up a partially completed IEP on the screen and begin discussing the findings from the assessment that were discussed at the last meeting.

Ms. Smith is listening quietly. When asked if she has any input or questions she says no. The team goes on to begin listing goals and objectives one by one. Ms. Smith shifts in her chair. Goals, objectives and services are now fully listed and the team asks Ms. Smith again if she has anything to offer or ask. She asks how the team is going to help her son who has autism learn how to use a bank account. The care coordinator reminds Ms. Smith that the IEP is about academic goals and also reminds the team that they are short on time. Ms. Smith disagrees that teaching her son how to use a bank account should not be on the IEP and asks why. The response from the team is that the goals have to match the identified needs from the assessment. Ms. Smith says that she has no idea what that means and that this meeting is a joke and storms out with her sister feeling angry and confused. The team is equally confused and has no idea what has happened.
The Power Seat
Team was inside together, parents outside. Parents come in to an already formed system and are identified as outsiders.
"Just the mom"
Unspoken factors influence stress. The power differential was potent in this meeting.
Team could have greeted the parents in the front office
Team could have used "us" language.
Team could have prepared the family better with knowledge of the system, limitations of the system and time expectations. Team could have noticed and commented on the rising tension.
you may have noticed other opportunities.
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