Abigail Miller
Post count: 5

The greatest benefit to the timeline approach seems to me to be that the intervention is more effective and it helps to prevent an escalation because it meets the child “where they are at” in the escalation cycle. It teaches skills and develops executive functioning (the ability to self reflect, consider consequences of behavior, inhibit behavior using cognitive control) when this is possible, but does not assume that a child is capable of this when they are not (when they are agitated, accelerating, or highly aroused), and provides a more effective intervention at that time (connection or co-regulation), which helps to prevent an escalation. As a result, it is therapeutic (it allows the child to experience an alternative to continuing to escalate and helps to re-wire the brain and present the child with alternatives).

One challenge of this approach is correctly identifying the state that a child is in. As we discussed in my consultation group, classrooms are complex places with a lot going on (fire drills, transition times where children are moving room to room, lunch, assemblies, and outside play times when different groupings occur and there may be less supervision). As a result, it can be hard for a teacher to track what is going on for all of the students (in addition to other tasks and responsibilities) and notice the more subtle signs (frequent talking, restlessness) that occur at the beginning of the cycle. As a result sometimes it can feel like the escalation came “out of nowhere.” Another challenge is maintaining “one foot in and one foot out,” remaining regulated and able to think clearly, not being overwhelmed/triggered by the feelings that arise and reacting rather than pro-actively choosing a strategy (when the adult is feeling helpless, inadequate, directly challenged, angry, overwhelmed, etc) it can be hard to respond empathetically. Three differences between classroom and playroom environments are that the adult is responsible for the group (not just the individual child), the child isn’t enacting the setup on toys, often they are enacting it on other children (and seeing a child hurt another can be triggering), and behaviors can be socially reinforced. Other challenges are capacity (frequently in classrooms the person helping a child regulate is the least trained person in the classroom- so the teacher can continue teaching), the frequency of an individual child’s challenges, the classroom composition, and the experience (new teacher vs experienced teacher) and disposition of the teacher.

In terms of working with the challenges that I identified, I think the most important piece is to keep the teacher regulated (teach them regulation skills). This is what I perceive to be the biggest challenge in classrooms and what I would focus on. Although we want discipline to be pro-active, and teachers focus a lot on trying to predict or observe the signals that indicate an escalation will occur (and I’m not arguing that they shouldn’t), classrooms are very complex, and in many cases this just won’t be possible. But, a regulated teacher stands the best chance of intervening effectively and experiencing less burnout than a dysregulated one. The teacher is the most important lesson in the room, an working with them on regulation (offering the teacher co-regulation, connection, and some instruction when they are able to hear it) is the intervention.