The Active Support Team - A New Level of Support at School
Wildwood School has a behavioral support team and their mission is to help students and families understand behaviors, what may trigger behaviors and new ways of dealing with those triggers. There is an axiom that all behavior is communication-meaning that a student’s behavior is letting us know something.
One of the most important things we do is assess, analyze and treat student behavior,” Val Schmitt, a school analyst, says. “The analysis helps us to understand the function of a student’s behavior so we can implement strategies and teach behaviors that are functional to the student and get their needs met”.
Students who have communication challenges may not be able to express when they feel frustrated, angry or sad or physically uncomfortable. Behavior can call attention to distress or discomfort and ultimately may relieve it. The problem occurs when those behaviors don’t serve a student’s long-term goals and add to problems.
As you can imagine, behavior analysts are very busy and need to do intensive studies of students to identify the antecedents of behaviors and the most effective ways to help them modify the behaviors that aren’t serving their needs. The challenge comes when the behavioral team is repeatedly called to deal with crises and that takes time and energy away from their treatment time.
“There are situations that happen in a classroom that are important to address but don’t necessarily need to be addressed by an analyst. You do need staff that are a calming influence who can handle many different types of situations,” Val says.
The solution was to create another level of staff who could address some of the classroom issues the behavior department was being called to. Those staff need to be flexible, have good rapport across the entire building, be well versed in proactive and de-escalation strategies and know the students.
“We wanted our behavior analysts and behavior assistants to be able to focus on working with students to collect data and conduct assessments instead of having all their time dealing with students in crisis. That’s why we developed the Active Support Team,” William Clooney, School Director, says. “The AST works to prevent crises and address behaviors before they get problematic as well as be another support for classroom staff.”
This new layer of coverage frees teachers and other staff to be able to focus on the primary emphasis of their duties.
“We do a variety of things. We may go to a classroom so a teacher can take a break or work with an individual student. We may come to a classroom to support a student or students who are struggling a bit or we can take some students who need some extra time away from the classroom,” Justin Luna, AST member says.
When you pass the AST office you are likely to see Justin and Taquisha Panza, the other AST member, in their space with a couple of students. On a recent visit two young students were in the office doing somersaults into a large bean bag and laughing out loud.
“Sometimes students just need a break and a chance to burn off some energy. We are able to give them this opportunity in a positive way that doesn’t disturb their classmates,” Taquisha Panza says.
Every day is different for the AST. It is a position that requires patience and a real knowledge of all our students, their wants, their dislikes and the things that can get in their way.
“Justin and Taquisha are amazing at working with students from all ages and also have a calm demeanor and presence that radiates through the school,” Will says.