Consider how you feel when you’re upset – it’s likely you need gentle support or solitude to decompress. It’s no different for a child. The specifics of your response will depend somewhat on the child. Use a calm, quiet voice and limit words, or perhaps simply remain quiet and keep your own body relaxed. Putting physical or emotional demands on the child (threatening consequences, physical prompting, demanding that they stop screaming) is not helpful. When a student is kicking, biting, or screaming, the most effective and humane response is to offer support, relax, and help the person feel safe.
In her books, Paula Kluth talks about the CALM protocol she created to support teachers managing a crisis situation:
- C – Comfort
- Keep in mind your goal is to get out of crisis; be as soothing as you can to the person to help him calm down.
- A – Avoid Contact
- Do not touch, hold, restrain, the person unless absolutely necessary. The exception would be if touch is soothing, and in a relationship where touching is appropriate.
- L – Lower Voice
- Drop your voice to a whisper as you assist the person; others in the environment should not be able to hear your words.
- M – Manage
- Keep extra adults away unless absolutely necessary; as much as possible, avoid having others look on or offer comments. This may mean moving the child to a more secluded location. Of course, if the upset child’s actions are a danger to others, they must be protected as well.
When the crisis is over, evaluating, discussing, and teaching about the situation can begin.
For more information:
Autism Physician Handbook: Canadian Edition, available at:
Supporting Inclusive Schools: A Handbook for Developing and Implementing Programming for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, available at:
Understanding Behaviour, available at the National Autistic Society website at: