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Even with the best behaviour support plans in place, there may be times when a person’s behaviour escalates. There are ways to help a person in crisis, while still maintaining personal safety as a priority.

It may be possible to prevent a crisis after a person’s behaviour has started to escalate. However, when a crisis develops, personal safety takes priority over everything else. Ensure you have a crisis management plan that includes:

  • when to disengage from an escalating situation
  • making sure your exits are always unobstructed
  • prior removal of any items that could be used as a weapon.

As behaviour starts to escalate, continue to work at understanding the triggers and purpose of the behaviour. It may still be possible to prevent a behaviour disturbance with:

  • a calm even tone of voice and reassurance
  • active listening and expressing empathy
  • simple, clear directions about what is required.

Tone of voice is very important. It is normal to feel adrenalin and speak in a higher pitch during a crisis situation, even if the intention is to defuse the situation. Being aware of this and deliberately speaking quietly in a normal tone can make a big difference.

Try to identify the message behind the behaviour. You might be able to avert a crisis if you can find the trigger and deal with it directly. A positive behaviour support plan should include how to respond to each possible crisis situation. Typical strategies during the escalation phase include:

  • promoting coping skills
  • breathing exercises
  • redirection (distraction)
  • stimulus change
  • ‘help me’ requests
  • introducing humour (this can be a difficult technique and should only be used by a familiar person)
  • exiting the troubling environment.

Once the crisis is over, it can be helpful to talk about the situation with a family member or a psychologist, particularly if it is a regular occurrence. It is important for carers to look after themselves and ensure they are well supported.