Keeping Complex Learners Safe

Please send your feedback on this core component to:

Guiding Questions

  • How can we approach keeping complex learners safe in a manner that strengthens the home-school partnership?
  • What should emergency preparedness entail for complex learners? What role can emergency service providers play in this planning?
  • How can we best support the sexual health and safety of our complex learners?
  • How can we best support students who have difficulty self-regulating physically aggressive behavior toward self or other?
  • In what ways might mental health related issues impact a students’ capacity to self-regulate?


  • To keep complex learners safe.





Key Actions

  • Collect data from parents, school personnel and experts from the field on effective approaches to keeping complex learners safe.
  • Retain the services of Shift Education to provide inservice to parents, school personnel and students in relation to promoting sexual health and safety.
  • Develop and implement guidelines aimed at supporting students who have difficulty self-regulating physically aggressive behaviour
  • Provide school principals inservice on the guidelines for supporting students who have difficulty self-regulating physically aggressive behaviour
  • Train all Education Assistants and Speciality Support Staff on collecting Functional Behaviour Assessment data
  • Expand / redesign the district autism team to include the additional services of a school psychologist, autism support worker and augmentative and alternative communication specialist who can be called upon to assist in situations where a student is having difficulty self-regulating physically aggressive behaviour
  • Develop and implement a policy overseeing seclusion and restraint.
  • Expand and reframe training in non-violent crisis intervention.
  • Meaningfully integrate this component with the work being done on: strengthening the home-school partnership, celebrating the unique me, supporting student transitions, nurturing social-emotional development and mental health, and enhancing professional skillset.





Indicators of Progress

  • Compare 2017/2018 violent incident reports with those filed in previous years to determine if the work being done on this component has resulted in a decrease in these occurrences.
  • Collect pre and post data from parents and school personnel who are supporting a complex learner to determine if key actions have resulted in successful outcomes as they relate to supporting student transition.
  • Use this information to meaningfully inform key actions for further development of this component in the 2018/2019 academic year.




Autism Self-Harming Behavior

This article and infographic by Autism Parenting Magazine discusses autism, head banging and other self harming behavior. Click here to read the full article and click on the image below to enlarge.

Understanding and Treating Self-Injurious Behavior | Autism Research Institute
This paper discusses the many causes of self-injury and describes interventions based on the underlying cause. Click here to read more.
Self-Injurious Behaviour – The National Autistic Society
Self-injurious behaviour is where a person physically harms themselves. It’s sometimes called self-harm. About half of autistic people engage in self-injurious behaviour at some point in their life, and it can affect people of all ages. To find out about the possible causes, things you can do when it happens, and ways you can try to prevent it from happening, click here.
BC’s Great Shake Out – Adapted Resources

The Great British Columbia Shake Out
Earthquake Actions for Individuals With Disabilities
Recommended Earthquake Safety Actions (including situations when you cannot get beneath a table) – PDF
Key Earthquake Safety Tips for People with Disabilities and Other Access or Functional Needs – PDF

NVSD Individual Emergency Evacuation Planning Tool
*Fall 2017 – Currently a joint project under development by Learning Services and Occupational Health & Safety











10 Considerations

for Supporting Students Who Have Difficulty Self-Regulating Physically Aggressive Behaviour

Click the iconsicon to learn more or download the 10 Considerations PDF

Establish and maintain a strong home-school partnership that includes close consultation with a student’s home team if one is involved


Prioritize Student and Staff Safety


  • Comprehensive planning, staff training and a strong home-school partnership that involves meaningful consultation with home team will help minimize risk of injury to students and staff

Communicate effectively


  • Conversations with parents and team members should reflect a purposeful evaluation of student’s progress toward self-regulating physically aggressive behaviour and collaborative efforts to support that outcome
  • Reporting to the home that an incident has occurred should be approached from the standpoint of inviting parent input to inform an appropriate course of action that is aimed at supporting the student

Measure incremental progress


  • Improving a child’s ability to self-regulate physically aggressive behaviour is an appropriate goal for an IEP in which progress is incrementally measured by decreases in frequency and / or intensity

Develop an understanding of the before, during and after, with careful consideration of:


  • Circumstances that may increase the likelihood of physically aggressive behaviour (the “before”)
  • How to effectively respond when physically aggressive behavior is occurring (the “during”)
  • What will occur following a physically aggressive incident (the “after”)
  • Make this plan readily available to all staff working with the student

Comprehensive planning related to these three areas must occur in advance of an incident and involve meaningful consultation with the home to determine what is most likely to diminish the frequency and intensity of the physically aggressive behaviour

Identify key individual roles and responsibilities


  • Comprehensive planning in relation to the before, during and after stages of an event involves clearly identifying key individual roles and responsibilities based on what is understood about the child
  • Essential to student and staff safety is a clear understanding of who should take the lead in attempting to de-escalate a situation and the training they will require in order to do so safely and effectively
  • Other personnel need to have clearly established roles in terms of their support for other students when a situation is escalating
  • Maintaining a strong home-school partnership involves establishing in advance when the home will be contacted, by whom, and with what intention
  • Key personnel need to be identified to take the lead with efforts to restore a student’s sense of belonging subsequent to an event
  • A review of key roles and responsibilities should occur as part of a required team de-brief subsequent to a significant event involving physically aggressive behaviour

Pay close attention to language being used


  • Words imply meaning that can negatively impact the home-school partnership; Difficulty self-regulating physically aggressive behavior is related to a child’s disability and not a willful act of violence
  • When discussing what should happen after an incident, consideration is given to whether it is in the child’s best interest to be “taken home”
  • Students with complex needs are not “sent home” following an incident as a form of deterrence or punishment
  • Following an incident attention is focused on what actions will help restore the child’s sense of belonging and diminish future frequency and intensity of the behaviour

Pay close attention to the child’s program


  • Carefully consider how the physically aggressive behaviour may be related to over or under stimulation
  • Provide “soft spaces” within the classroom and/or school to support the child’s sensory needs

Carefully consider how a child’s mental health may be a factor


  • Consult with mental health experts to determine whether an underlying condition may be contributing to the child’s difficulty self-regulating

Seek to understand how the behaviour may represent a form of communication


  • Supporting a child’s ability to effectively communicate with others may significantly diminish frequency and intensity of physically aggressive behaviour