What happens during a crisis?



Trigger phase

  • Need for distraction and diversion, as early as possible.

Escalation phase

  • Need for stimulus change and distraction and diversion. Provide reassurance and support using active listening.

Crisis phase

  • Keep language simple and to the point. Do not refer to the behaviour.

Recovery phase

  • Need for support and monitoring. Give time for the person and yourself to calm down.

Post crisis depression phase

  • Need for a caring and compassionate response. Listen to and learn from the situation.

After a crisis allow one to two hours for everyone to become calm, sometimes longer. Do not refer back to the behaviour as this may still be difficult for the child or young person to hear, process or reflect on.


Effective ways to calm a crisis

  • use the child’s or young person’s name before talking to them
  • allow time for thinking or processing
  • if you know what the child or young person wants and you can give them this, give it as quickly as you can
  • try to stay calm yourself, keep control of your own rate and tone of speech. Try to breathe steadily.


Positive instructions

Always tell your child or young person what you want them to do, rather than what you don’t want them to do


no hitting


hands down


stop shouting


quiet voice


no throwing


put that down


Active listening

Active listening helps communicate with the child or young person that you are listening and that they have your support. 

Phrases that may be helpful are:

  • I can see that you are upset
  • I am here to help you
  • how can I help you?


Top four distraction and diversion

If you can interrupt the behaviour, even for a few seconds, this gives you the chance to divert to a more appropriate behaviour or activity.

  • sing a song at the top of your voice
  • see something exciting out of the window
  • pretend to trip or fall over
  • ring a telephone or knock at a door.


Positive behaviour support (PBS)

PBS is an approach that is used to think about the individual needs of your child or young person. Your team will use a pathway of care to assess these needs.  Within the pathway we use a method called applied behavioural analysis.  This will help us to understand what the behaviour is about and help us to develop an individualised plan.

The plan will have a number of elements; it will understand the behaviour and have some direct strategies for dealing with this but also for trying to prevent it happening in the first place. 

The plan will try to improve the child or young person’s quality of life by making preferable things more available and easily accessible.  The plan may have some individual strategies for working with the child or young person about helping them cope.  It may also suggest changes to the environment to ensure the child or young person’s environment is meeting their needs.


Leaflet reference: L919
Version: V3
Date last updated: 28 / April / 2017
Archive date: 28 / April / 2020

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