When it comes to understanding classroom and home life for students with special needs, Kristie and Barb have the inside view. Kristie trains and guides teachers in classrooms across the US who are trying to figure out some the most challenging situations. Barb gets into the nitty-gritty of challenging behaviors at home with parents with children with severe sensory issues and autism. We come together because we are uniquely qualified to discuss the absolute importance of communication between home and school.

We know each side and the very fact that there should be no sides!

We are keenly aware of the ups, downs, and side-ways of many attempts to communicate that result in both wonderful growth in students as well as tense legal battles that leave everyone frustrated, deflated, exhausted, and unsuccessful.

Yes, our goal is for everyone to “be on the same page,” and support one another in their heartfelt and mindful attempts to guide children of all ages. However, we go beyond the dream, and get to the “how to.”

No one we know of has gone into teaching for the money. We become teachers because we are compassionate and committed to children and families. Similarly, parents become parents out of a deep sense of commitment and love.

Somehow, somewhere along the way however, when behaviors flare, we forget how much each of us cares. Or maybe we too quickly assume the other does not have *this* child’s best interest at heart.

When tensions rise…communication breaks down.

When teachers, professionals, and parents come together on behalf of a child, about a child’s challenging behavior (a child’s response to stressors), the child benefits greatly.

That said, we all can benefit from tips for communicating openly and without judgement, and for creating plans for better days ahead, both at home and at school.

If you have a child in your classroom or at home that is exhibiting challenging behaviors, call, text, or set a meeting with the important people in the child’s life.

And here are 7 easy questions to guide your discussions with one another!

  1. Is it developmental? Parents come from very different professions. Some may be accountants, others may be grocery clerks. They may need assistance to learn about typical and atypical development. Parents, ask your teachers for resources and/or information on what to expect at different stages in development. Teachers, share what you know about development and learning, particularly as it relates to understanding how children respond to stress and how skills like self-regulation emerge. Try not to assume negative intent, just a need for information.
  2. Should we be concerned? Both teachers and parents should come from an open minded place when discovering the WHY a behavior is happening. Ask questions. Consider whether this child is experiencing something in the classroom that is not at home that may be environmental (e.g., sensory overload, allergies to carpets, fear of balloons).
  3. What do we see? Take the time to observe the child in multiple environments. This may sound daunting for teachers, but today, most people have smart phones with video options. Ask parents if they are comfortable video taping interactions at home that you may find helpful for either guiding parents understanding OR better understanding about other types of guidance that might work better for a child in your classroom. Consider asking a parent to come observe their child in the classroom (this can be tricky if a child responds differently, of course). Or ask your administrators if you can videotape your classroom when the behaviors happen – for your own review and processing what might be occurring.
  4. Can we modify the environment? We often forget that we can simply modify an environment to eliminate a behavior or safety concern. At school, consider modifying the schedule, offer breaks, create clear visual boundaries between activity areas. There are a few basic environmental arrangements that can really help lessen any child’s anxiety that leads to behaviors. Share what works with parents. Consider sharing an article about how modifying the environment can support a child (or anyone) in feeling more organized, understanding expectations, feeling seen, safe, secure, and soothed.
  5. Are we stressed? Children read your stress levels and tension faster than we can even imagine. They respond to our tone, our tense bodies, and our facial expressions, whether we think they are paying attention or not. Take a moment or two or three to settle your own system down either across settings or in the setting where the challenging behavior occurs. Just by taking a breath and sitting down can make a world of difference for a child. If a child is in the middle of a chaotic storm of behavior, getting ramped up yourself is ONLY going to make it worse. Get the child, others, and yourself safe, take a deep breath, and sit down if you can…it will help the storm to pass.
  6. Are we assuming positive intent? Take a moment to ask yourself, and each other, if you think the child is trying to manipulate you or others. Children do well if they can. Children strive to do well. Children do not try to intentionally manipulate you. Assume your child or student is trying to engage, to understand, to participate… but for some reason, they cannot. They are struggling. Come from a place of assuming they want to do well but need your help not shaming, yelling, or consequences. They need guidance and support.
  7. Are we open to experimenting? Addressing challenging behaviors in humans is tough work. Humans are complicated and emotional. If you think that a behavior is going to be “fixed” easily, you will most likely be disappointed. Together, figure out why a behavior is occurring, collaborate to create a draft plan of action, and then experiment with what works and does not work.

Open minded communication between home and school about what is working and not working is key to guiding a child to decreasing challenging behaviors.

Related Resources

  • Five more tools for your toolbox on supporting the social-emotional health and well-being of children (access to an interactive handout from the 33rd annual DEC conference in Portland, OR, from our session, “Why Can’t They Just Behave“)
  • Six tip sheets from the “Calming the Chaos Classroom Series” [link to learn more]
  • Six training videos and worksheets from the “Calming the Chaos Home Edition” [link to learn more]


When children are stressed, overwhelmed, or confused, they exhibit what we perceive as challenging behaviors. Children must feel safe and secure in order to become CURIOUS enough to engage in appropriate learning at home and in classrooms.

The funny thing is, we often teach all sorts of things…without ensuring CURIOSITY first. This means…we often end up teaching compliance without engagement, mindlessness instead of independent thinking, and distancing the children who may need the closest guidance.

We must instead, set the essential foundations for social engagement and learning through fostering CURIOSITY. Research has demonstrated that children, including those with autism, who are curious about others and have joint attention make the most progress.

But how do we guide curiosity?

In typical development, the focus begins with getting basic needs met. From there, a curiosity about caregivers starts to percolate, often through facial gazes and smiles. Soon, that curiosity evolves into taking action towards the caregiver to see how they may respond. In some children, including those with autism, there may be significant regulation and sensory issues that make this early connection, curiosity, and learning, seemingly impossible.

When a child feels safe, secure, and soothed by you, they have the capacity to be curious to you (C2U™).

Guiding curiosity, particularly with a child with autism, takes significant, purposeful, and artful effort by the caregiver or guide. The purpose of this blog is to “unpack” how to help a child (or person of any age) to connect with you, to be curious, and to engage in what we call mini-moments, so that the bigger moments of sustained joint attention and social reciprocity can happen.

Here are 3 essential things you can do to support a child’s curiosity…particularly their curiosity to you…

Create an environment that supports connection

Children must trust their guide to provide manageable learning environments. Environments prime for curiosity are those which are quiet and relaxed, with as little additional or distracting stimuli as possible. If a child is struggling with an environment that is overstimulating, confusing, or causing feelings of chaos, taking a child to a quiet part of the room or outside, or simply away from the offending environment, can do wonders for allowing space for curiosity to emerge.


  • Create and/or find quiet spaces
  • Decrease clutter, including voice and visual stimulation
  • Create well-defined areas to interact (e.g., a single room, a single area with dividers, or even a couch)

Calm your own body and mind while sharing the same space

Young children’s regulation, particularly those with autism, can vary moment to moment due to neurological, sensory, or other reasons, often which are beyond their control. This requires us to be calm, collected, and settled in our own bodies. This may mean sitting beside the person or child with autism and listening to your own heartbeat, or your own breath without demanding anything of the child. Allow yourself to breathe deeply. Not only will this help you, it will help the child by modeling breathing and not making immediate demands on him/her. This allows the child’s attention to shift, their body to calm, and availability more possible.


  • Breathe
  • Slow your own body down
  • Say nothing
  • Sit down

Offer “bids” for the child’s curiosity

Young children, particularly those with autism, are often used to people telling them what to do and/or trying to get them to respond in a particular way. The performance anxiety in both scenarios can be high, which can actually decrease interest and motivation to engage with others. Here is your chance to offer “bids” for engagement that are non-threatening, not performance-based…they are simply…bids to become curious about you and to connect.


  • Offer your hand to the child (without talking)
  • Offer a gentle touch
  • Lean in toward the child (or away)
  • Say echoed statements back but in an ever so slightly different way… slowed down or with a lower or higher pitched voice than you typically might….this can create curiosity.
The moment that the child gazes, leans, shifts, or reaches out to you…tells you they are curious. In fact, it tells you they are curious about you. *THIS* is what we call C2U™.

For us, C2U™ is NOT eye contact. C2U™ is the true curiosity not the act of making eye contact. People can and do make eye contact all of the time that is mindless. We are guiding mindful curiosity (or intentional focal attention) to you (C2U™).

To learn more about C2U™ and what it means to support children with autism, in particular, [click here for a video tutorial on the subject]. And if you are especially interested in strengthening your competency in guiding individuals with autism, consider getting Synergy Autism Mentorship Certified! CLICK HERE for more information.

Related Resources

  • Five more tools for your toolbox on supporting the social-emotional health and well-being of children (access to an interactive handout from the 33rd annual DEC conference in Portland, OR, from our session, “Why Can’t They Just Behave“)
  • Six tip sheets from the “Calming the Chaos Classroom Series” [link to learn more]
  • Six training videos and worksheets from the “Calming the Chaos Home Edition” [link to learn more]

Celebrate, Be Silly, And Persevere


Here’s is an audio recording from co-facilitator, Barbara Avila, with a summary of tips from our C2U Before the Peak 21-day challenge.


Audio Transcript:

Barbara Avila:

Here we are. We are almost done with the 21 day challenge. We just have one more day. We hope this has been a helpful collection of tips for you to improve behaviors in your home and the homes of people you serve. Kristie will be sharing how you can access more information, if you like our approach and wish for more.

So today, I am summarizing what you have read in our posts over the past week. We shared about making sure children have a time and space for feeling good – a time for celebrating what Kristie calls someone’s super powers. When a child is in phase of challenging behaviors, we can wear down their confidence. Remember to provide opportunities to do the things they do well so they feel well-rounded while learning new and better behaviors.

When you are personally feeling like you are careening out of control on the red train. Make the adult choice to get off. Your child is young. The brain takes well over 25 years to develop its frontal lobe to full capacity. Your child needs your help to take a different train that is calm, quiet, and soothing. They may not join you right away but with consistency of offering it, they will.

Figure out ways to share control and create partnerships with your child. Children learn how to be independent through opportunities you present to them for everything from carrying a laundry basket to cleaning up after their play. But if you demand they do it alone, you are asking for compliance. If you share the control and partner, you can teach social skills, sharing, turn taking, interaction, and negotiation all in those little moments!

While you are sharing control and creating partnerships, balance those and behavior management with moments of celebration. Notice when your child is doing well and tell them so. Be authentic. If it is not true, stay silent instead of complaining. If it is true and they are doing something well, be sure to mention it and add a bit of touch with a hug, whenever possible. Everyone is different with touch, but everyone enjoys it. Find a way to make it safe, comfortable, and rewarding for your child instead of a way to GET them to do something.

BE SILLY! Let loose! Be silly! Everyone’s silly is unique and it makes life so wonderful. Just because your child has rough moments, don’t forget to bring out your silly. It will keep your child engaged and curious about you so that when you do have to guide sternly, they will respect, trust, and be curious about what you have to say.

And like so many things, these tips and methods are going to take perseverepractice. Persevere. Stay strong and diligent. By providing a safe and peaceful home that allows them to experiment and explore interactions with you with you staying calm and collected, you not only prevent behaviors but you provide your child with security for a lifetime.


P.S. Don’t forget to sign up to receive all 21 tips from our challenge.

Connect, Share, Love


Here’s is an audio recording from co-facilitator, Barbara Avila, with a summary of tips from our C2U Before the Peak 21-day challenge.


Audio Transcript:

Barbara Avila:

Welcome to day 13 of our 21 day challenge. In the last summary, I talked about the importance of calming your and the child’s systems so that you both can be curious about one another. Do not add to the flood, take care of yourself, be curious about what makes the child tick. Today, I’ll go deeper in the next tips you have seen this past week on our Facebook group…there was a lot this week so bare with me!

Create a peaceful home base of your child. When behaviors flare, it is so easy to forget to create and share moments that are enjoyable… but these are absolutely critical for your child to see you as their safe and soothing zone they can call home. Create or return to routines of reading each night, giving hugs for no reason other than the fact that you love each them, sit and play – really let go and play. Kids find it more rewarding and validating to simply play with them than you know. During these times, connect and share…. Partner to solve problems together and enjoy one another. On day 12 we talked about resisting the urge to solve things too soon. Allow your child the time and enjoyment of solving problems BEFORE you step in and solve them for them. It’s a wonderful gift that leads to independence!  And when the times are rough, wait for that storm to pass then use what are called “bids” to connect that are small, simple, and caring. A simple offer of a toy, a touch on a shoulder, or even just sitting near silently can build trust and connection.

Part of ensuring a peaceful home is also to provide and ensure good physical health. Please help you and your child avoid those “hangry” moments and sugar crashes whenever possible. Good nutritious snacks go a long way for ourselves, our children, and often our spouses, too in improving interactions!

If you have a child who is impulsive or a behavior that is severe enough that you just HAVE to address it in the very moment it happens, we get it. So have an immediate replacement available. It does not have to be a perfect solution. You can access OTs, and teachers for getting more specific and long term alternatives…but in the meantime, if you have a biting, offer something appropriate to do for the child’s mouth…. If you have a hitter, find something appropriate to explore hitting or simply something ELSE to do with your child’s hands like holding or carrying something. So speaking of OTs, most children love to explore their worlds from a sensory perspective and you might consider putting together a bin or bins JUST for that purpose! Celebrate your child’s sensory exploration by providing opportunities for it instead of being the one to always say “no!” when your child is attempting to figure out the world in this way!

Oh how I love this one. Behaviors can be so much fun for children to play with… especially if they get a fun response out of you. So take those sails out of those behaviors by being open and honest about them! Explore them! So similar to exploring sensory instead of trying to stop it… explore the areas your child is challenging you with behavior. What I mean is, if your child is swearing, try writing down all the swear words you know together in a list! Say them, offer to review them, talk about them… then throw the list away or tuck it somewhere safe – but be sure to offer talking about them anytime your child asks.

And last but not least, resist asking your child yes/ no questions. fb-popup-posts-home-vistors-14Statements are clear. Open ended questions allow thinking.

If you ask a yes/no question, be prepared to honor it when your child says “no.”




Weathering the Storm Resources

When you are in the midst of a behavioral storm, it is not the time to teach, guide, or reprimand. It is a time to slow down, calm your OWN body, sit down, and make small bids to simply connect with the child.

Once the storm has passed, try reaching out and offering a lifeline…a way out of the storm…meaning…connect!

Connecting is something we feel, not something we have to say…so bids are usually nonverbal, and for sure non-confrontational.

If that connection is rejected, the child is not ready yet. Take another breath, wait, watch, and try again.

Looking for additional tips and tools for “weathering the storm”?

Enter your name and email below and receive immediate access to a tip sheet, which includes an eight step process. You’ll also receive a bonus resource which “unpacks” steps four and five…giving you even more practical strategies.

C2U Before the Peak

Figuring out how to respond, not react…and how to support, not to scold is a tall challenge…particularly in the middle of a melt down.

facebook-group-cover-1602x500That’s why we’re on a journey…rather a mission…to {r}evolutionize how we approach even the most challenging of behaviors. And one part of our journey is the C2U Before The Peak 21-Day Challenge.

The goal of the 21-day challenge is to offer a bit of inspiration and a whole bunch of tips to help families and those who support families, to forge strong relationships, create curiosity, and see situations where children are acting out, as times when their bodies are responding to stress.

Here’s is an audio recording from co-facilitator, Barbara Avila, with a summary of tips from this week’s challenge.


Audio Transcript:

Barbara Avila:

It is now Day 6 of our lovely 21 day challenge. Thank you for joining us and we hope that you have begun to experience a mindshift in regards to tough behaviors. This little audio recording is just for you to summarize what you have read this week. You can also sign up to receive all of the 21 tips in one downloadable book, if you wish.

So thinking about calming a child’s system so that they can be truly and genuinely curious is key. You can never teach in the middle of a meltdown, just as you cannot repair a house in the middle of a hurricane. Don’t even try. Do whatever you need to ensure safety in that moment. There is plenty of time to teach when you and the child are in a better place for trusting, connecting, and learning.

Taking time to observe yourself and your child will be a lifesaver. First you must be sure that you are not overfilling your own cup – meaning you need to be open to what you see. You have to observe with an open mind and well taken care of body. Then observe the child to see what “makes them tick”. What are they curious about, what do they love to do? What do they get frustrated about? Assume that they wish to connect and engage… but they need your help. What are they struggling with that is getting in the way?

fb-popup-posts-home-vistors-7And last and not trivial is the fact that we really just have to imagine the child in the midst of an emotional and chaotic flood when they are having behaviors that challenge you and others. Adding to that flood only makes it worse. So stop talking, relax your own body. Sit down as safety permits… so instead of adding to the flood with your frustrations, anxiety, and upset, be their safety net. Do not add to the flood.


Take the sails out of swear words

The most obvious and sometimes overlooked reason children swear is because they are hearing particular words used on TV or by others they spend time with. Don’t be afraid to discuss the use of swear words with loved ones if you feel they are not appropriate for your child to hear.

Also, do not be afraid to talk to your child about swear words. They can be confusing to a child who is just learning words and word meaning! 

Other tips…

Notice when your child swears, maybe it is similar to when you find yourself using a choice word or two (e.g., when you are frustrated, overwhelmed, or simply do not have other words to express how you feel).

Offer alternatives for expressing the same emotional reaction. Offer other ways to explore words – some silly, some angry but not swearing, make up words! Experiment with the new or alternative words in situations that may cause the same feelings.

For example, if your child seems to swear when something gets stuck or does not work the way they expected, try setting them up for that situation but with you right there to guide them through it. Preview the situation first by saying “you might get frustrated, what words do you want to try using?”

If your child is using swear words because they specifically get a reaction from you or others, try altering your reaction. For example, instead of making a big deal about it, gently take your child aside, and discuss the word you just heard them say. For example, talk about how the word is spelled, what it rhymes with, and/or even talk about why some people can say they word and they can not. Having a less emotional reaction to what you heard, can help take the sails out of their use of “trigger” words.

Is this tip helpful? Are you looking for more ways to deal with challenging behaviors? If yes, check out our Calm the Chaos at Home video tutorial series. Click HERE to access practical tips you can apply immediately.

Are you an early educator looking to calm the chaos in your classroom? Click HERE to access our calming the chaos classroom series.

Allow time and shared control


Instead of rushing from one place to the next, make sure you are providing your child with information and ways to share control.

We all can get task focused and forget that our children need more time to hear and process our requests. Taking the time to provide information can save time later – if your child drops to the floor in a grocery store due to feelings of frustration, it may be them telling you they need more processing time.

So one way to move your child from the floor and back into what you need them to be doing, is to simply provide processing time.

Offering choices within a non-choice can also provide a child with a sense of shared control when the overall goal is not open for debate.

For example, offering for a child to carry his backpack or your purse to the car allows shared control without negotiations about whether or not to get in the car. 

When modifying how you share control, avoid slipping down the slippery slope of negotiation that can lower expectations or to demands for compliance. This happens when we are the “end of our ropes,” and may need to find calm for ourselves first.

Again, the take away message is to calm the storm by providing processing time, information, and by sharing control.

When you do these things consistently, you will find yourself enjoying experiences together versus finding your child dropping to the floor in search of processing time or a natural need for some control.

Is this tip helpful? Are you looking for more ways to deal with challenging behaviors? If yes, check out our Calm the Chaos at Home video tutorial series. Click HERE to access practical tips you can apply immediately.

Are you an early educator looking to calm the chaos in your classroom? Click HERE to access our calming the chaos classroom series.

Go silent, kind, and firm


Imagine a time when you felt like screaming… or actually did!

It was likely a moment you are not proud of…but at the time…you were “flooded” with emotion. 

Children are the same…but even less able to resist the urge to scream!

Quick tip: Guide your child to use words or pictures to indicate when they are done, rather than ending an activity by screaming. You can also practice getting excited about something and using “hooray!” with hand clapping or exaggerated facial expressions instead of screaming. This all said, be ready to meet the overzealous child who continues to scream despite your kind attempts by staying kind, yet firm. Practice is key to longer term understanding and success.

When you do find yourself with a screaming child, aim to reduce your words or become completely silent. Turn the lights low, and bring calm to the space around you and your child.

Once the flooding has started to recede, offer alternatives behaviors when they have strong emotions. Offer other ways to explore voice control. 

Are you looking for more ways to deal with challenging behaviors? If yes, check out our Calm the Chaos at Home video tutorial series. Click HERE to access practical tips you can apply immediately.

Are you an early educator looking to calm the chaos in your classroom? Click HERE to access our calming the chaos classroom series.

Stop chasing and start leading

Does your child’s impulsivity get your blood boiling?

Children who “act impulsively” may actually be responding to feeling scattered or reacting to a chaotic environment. This means in order to help them “calm down”, we need to start by considering our own actions and responses.

How focused are you? Are you able to calm your own nerves so you guide your child to calm theirs?

Remember, your child needs practice (with you leading them) to get, shift, and even keep their attention. Your child needs your help to stop, think, and then act. Shouting to a child to “calm down” or giving idle threats will have little to no effect.

Quick tip: If your home or space is cluttered, your child’s action may be a direct response. Consider reducing items in your home to the essentials or just a few favorites. You can always switch them out…but having them all out at once can cause children to response impulsively.

This tip should help you turn impulsivity into sustained attention…and you can stop chasing your child and start leading.

Is this tip helpful? Are you looking for more ways to deal with challenging behaviors?

If yes, check out our Calm the Chaos at Home video tutorial series. Click HERE to access practical tips you can apply immediately.

Are you an early educator looking to calm the chaos in your classroom? Click HERE to access our calming the chaos classroom series.