A very important plan to have in place when working with challenging youth, especially youth who have violent outbursts, is a safety plan. Depending on the setting you are working in, you will at some point be required to create a safety plan for a high needs youth. Safety plans can look different but most include necessary categories; for instance:
What are some of the behaviours that show up before the child or youth acts up? For example, you know some of the symptoms ofÂ the flu coming on are fever and feeling nauseous.
Some examples: Kicking, hitting, aggressive tone of voice, attention seeking behaviour
Signs of Increased Anxiety/Agitation:
What are some of the behaviours that demonstrate the youth is very agitated? For example, at this stage you are past the early stages of the flu and you are now coughing and vomiting (eww...I know, sorry).
Some examples: Screaming, laughing, very quiet and withdrawn
Triggers of Anxiety/Agitation:
What sparks the behaviours in the youth?
Some examples: Conflict at home, conflict with peers, challenging work, new staff, changes in schedules, transitions
Response to Anxiety/Agitation:
How will you respond to the above behaviours when they occur?
Some examples: Removing the other youth, removing the youth and talking with them about their behaviour in a quiet space
Response to Verbal Non-Compliance:
What do you do if they don't comply to your request? (It happens quite a bit!)
Some examples: Remind the youth of the privileges they could possibly lose, stay within their space and don't allow the youth to engage in any other activities until they comply, implement "graduated" consequences/behaviour modification if applicable
Response to Physical Acting Out:
How will you respond if the youth becomes physically violent?
Some examples: Verbal deescalation, clear the area of objects that could be used or that are unsafe, remove the other youth to another designated area, implementÂ a restraint plan if causing harm to self or others (if applicable).
Plan for Reducing Tension and Debriefing:
Once the problem behaviours above are dealt with, how do you plan to reduce the tension?
Some examples: Review the problem with the youth, ensure the youth understands what was discussed and is ready to comply and be reintegrated back into the daily routine.
Plan for Consequences:
What are the consequences that you are going to put in place?
Some examples: Loss of free time, removal of privileges, drop a level, early bed time
Ask your supervisor about the safety protocols of your organization, do they have safety plans for the youth you work with? Ask to see it. Having a safety plan already in place before the problem behaviours occur decreases scrambling, uncertainty and unnecessary escalations.