When dealing with children and adolescents impacted by a crisis, it is important that the school, the school health service and the individual teachers assume an active role – not watchful waiting. By asking the students to speak up “if there is a problem”, the teacher leaves the responsibility with the student. Children and adolescents do not have the competence or overview to see their own needs clearly in a chaotic situation.

Adjustments must be implemented in co-operation with the student, but it is the teacher who should offer the alternatives and set a framework for the educational program.

Belinda Ekornås – Special Adviser, RVTS East

Students need time-in, not time-out, at school. Teachers and parents can support the child’s learning capacity and emotional regulation through:

Strategies and adjustments

  • Give simple instructions and adjust the education to what the student can comprehend.
  • Use mind maps, apps and audiobooks to help structuring the learning.
  • Group work must be well planned; students facing a crisis should have a defined role that doesn’t require a high level of organising.
  • Develop optional time-in activities for the student and agree on how these should be used. Younger students could have crayons or books at their desk. Older students could have an iPad with earphones for listening to audiobooks etc.

Predictability

  • Review today’s plan in the morning before teaching starts.
  • Inform about changes or transitions before they happen (for example “five minutes left until…”). It is important that the student gets to complete tasks to encourage a sense of achievement.
  • Include the student and parents in planning the school day and homework.

Breathing/relaxation

  • Schedule time for breathing techniques, breaks and relaxation in the timetable.
  • Relaxation exercises can be performed with the entire class, preferably before learning new material. This can improve the students’ concentration.

Regulation

  • Avoid saying “you are going to” or “you must” – this locks the situation. Rather, give the student two choices.
  • Provide the student with strategies to leave a conflict or situation. Talk about these strategies in advance and remind of them when needed.
  • Provide a room where the student can go as needed.
  • Avoid explanations that involve the ability to reflect about oneself or one’s behaviour (mentalisation) when the student is frustrated or anxious.
  • Children and adolescents need clear instructions about practical things they can do in stressful situations: “Take a walk, take a break, think before you act.”
  • Children and adolescents can react negatively to absolute demands like “you must” or “you are going to”. Breaking the difficult situation and diverting attention to a new activity works better.