Academic journal article The Journal of Special Education and Rehabilitation

Reflections on Behavioral Crises Prevention and Intervention in Special Education Schools in the United States

Academic journal article The Journal of Special Education and Rehabilitation

Reflections on Behavioral Crises Prevention and Intervention in Special Education Schools in the United States

Article excerpt

world experience and current events


The development of civilization made crises an inseparable part of our lives. Crises manifest themselves in almost all social areas and organizations, including educational institutions. The goals of the article are to present a theoretical model of normal, deviant and antisocial behaviors, and discuss the psychosocial characteristics of emotionally disturbed adolescents situated in a residential special education school in the United States. The article also gives an analysis of their most prevalent behavioral crises, escalation stages, as well as nonviolent crisis prevention and intervention strategies. The methods that were used include scientific literature review, analysis of statistical information supplied from different government sources, review and analysis of student records, as well as the author's analytical reflections in working with emotionally disturbed youngsters in residential special education schools in the United States.

The results of the study indicate that scientists from different fields use different terminology to describe socially nonconforming behaviors.

The author presents a theoretical model of normal, deviant and antisocial behavior that could enhance better understanding and identification of high risk situations and conduct leading to serious crises. The analysis of student records revealed that most of the adolescents situated in special education residential schools are diagnosed with a number of mental health problems. This suggests that the currently prevailing care and education paradigm in the special education residential schools should shift to a more comprehensive treatment paradigm. The article also discusses the pros and cons of nonviolent crisis intervention. It is the author's opinion that all special education schools serving children with emotional disorders should adopt one of the nonviolent crisis intervention models and develop and implement crisis management policies, plans and procedures.

Key words: crisis prevention, verbal crisis intervention, nonviolent physical crisis intervention, continuum of crisis escalation, positive behavior supports.


The term "crisis" has many definitions. Crises arise in different areas of our lives and are examined by many fields of science. In a broader sense, crises are classified into those that are caused by nature (hurricanes, earthquakes, floods) or man (violence, crime, divorce, incarceration, etc.). All crises have several common features. They are usually unwelcome, related to stress, have a negative effect on the environment, the population or the economy, they may last for longer periods of time, they may have a favorable or unfavorable outcome and people are usually in need of external intervention or help to overcome their outcomes. On one hand, crises may have political, economic, financial, military or environmental nature and affect the whole society or separate nations. On the other, they manifest themselves as social, medical or psychological problems that resonate within smaller group of people, families or individuals. The origin of the word crisis comes from the Greek term "krisis", "krinein" and means "to separate or determine". In the literature, a crisis is usually defined as an unstable situation that is related to a danger or a threat; an unexpected change in the course of an illness or a disease that determines recovery or relapse; a personally stressful event during which the situation approaches or exceeds the adaptive capacities of the individual. Only Confucius ignored the negative aspects of the crises and envisioned them as new beginnings.

It would be an extreme exaggeration to say that neither in the EU countries nor the United States exist schools that could be defined as safety sanctuaries. Almost every week one can find media reports about violence and terrorism on school grounds. Needless to say, several years ago incidents resulting in the death or injury of students and teachers once considered as American phenomenon; today have crossed the boarders of many European countries. …

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