1. Be empathetic. Don’t judge your students’ feelings. They are real, even if not based on reality.
2. Clarify messages. Listen to what is really being said. Ask reflective questions and use both silence and restatements.
3. Respect personal space. Stand at least 11/2 to 3 feet from the person acting out. Encroaching on personal space can escalate an individual’s aggravation.
4. Be aware of body position. Standing one leg-length away and at an angle is less likely to escalate the person’s mood.
5. Allow the person to release energy verbally, if possible.
6. Set and enforce reasonable limits if the person becomes belligerent, defensive or disruptive.
7. Avoid overreacting. Remain calm, rational and professional. How you respond will affect their response.
8. Use physical techniques as a last resort. Use the least restrictive method of intervention possible.
9. Ignore challenging questions and redirect the student’s attention to the issue at hand. Answering these questions often fuels a power struggle.
10. Keep your nonverbal cues non-threatening. Be aware of your body language, movement and tone of voice. The more a person loses control, the less he or she listens to your actual words.
Source: Dr. Terry L. Smith, human behavior specialist and special education director, Regional Education Service Agency II, Huntington, W.V.
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