The Lead School’s Anxiety Focused Approach to Working with Students
It is The Lead School’s belief that most, if not all of our students’, behaviors are rooted in some form of anxiety. That anxiety could be the result of past trauma. It could also be a manifestation of their diagnoses. Regardless of the cause, even simple interactions can trigger the fight or flight response that often leads to aggressive behaviors.
One way we help students establish the relationship between thoughts, feelings and behaviors is by having multiple trusted adults available to help students process and discuss feelings in the moment. Teachers are trained to address issues within the classroom. When additional interventions are necessary, our school counselor, social worker and behavior interventionists are available outside the classroom to help students identify and name their feelings, apply coping strategies and process the situation so that they may return to the classroom.
The Lead School’s therapeutic rooms also provide opportunities for students to re-regulate and process. Our Reorientation Room is a place for students who are in crisis to complete their crisis cycle in a safe environment with the help and support of trained staff. Our Recovery Room is available for students who are not in full crisis but nonetheless need the time and opportunity to regulate.
Our Relaxation Room provides even more sensory strategies to help students re-regulate. The trampoline, swing, and crash mat, for example, help students with vestibular and proprioceptive needs. The bubble tube, infinity mirror, fiberoptic lights and lava lamp provide visual stimulation. The sensory table, theraputty and a variety of fidgets and stress balls offer tactile input. The goal of both the Recovery and Relaxation rooms is to offer a variety of coping strategies for students to explore in order to discover which works best for them, with the ultimate goal of being able to self-identify what they are feeling and self-direct their method of handling those feelings appropriately.
Cross-classroom collaboration is another component of The Lead School’s anxiety focused model. It is not unusual to see high school students helping second graders and middle school students working collaboratively with students in the autism program. This not only encourages reluctant students to feel safe with a trusted peer, and thus participate in activities they otherwise would not attempt, it also allows older and more capable students opportunities to increase their self esteem as they observe the results of their efforts to help others.
Lead School staff engage in ongoing training and education in research based best practices in order to understand the unique needs of the students we serve. Crisis management training includes a knowledge of the crisis cycle in general and individual students’ crisis cycles in particular. Such knowledge allows staff to identify the function and precursors of a behavior, the strategies that are most effective in preventing a student from reaching full crisis, and effective responses to students in crisis. Staff meet regularly to roleplay scenarios and discuss appropriate responses to hypothetical situations in order to be prepared to respond to a variety of situations. Staff also meet to team individual students and apply a multidisciplinary approach to identify the ways to best meet their academic, social, emotional and behavioral needs.
The Lead School serves children with a wide range of behavior-related diagnoses and autism. The combination of a multi-disciplinary, multi-faceted approach, cross classroom collaboration, and ongoing staff training and education create a program that helps students feel safe as they explore ways to better respond to a variety of anxiety-related stressors, from minor frustrations to the effects of long term trauma.