Inclusive Education   |   Collaborative Behavioural Support   |   Friendship & Benevolence   |   Rethinking Disability

THE PERSON IS NOT THE PROBLEM. THE PROBLEM IS THE PROBLEM! Collaborative Approaches to Behavioral Support

Responding to students we most commonly label as non-compliant, disruptive, or resistant can be  frustrating, so it is understandable that teachers look for swift and efficient techniques to resolve the situations that arise. However, the majority of the current behavioral support programs locate the problem in the student and work from a “narrative of correction.” This perspective can inadvertently implant an “identity of inadequacy” and may make a difficult situation even worse. 

Drawing on the divergent fields of hostage negotiation and narrative therapy, Emma Van der Klift and Norman Kunc explore alternative ways of perceiving “difficult behavior.” They will show how adopting alternative narratives that take into account the interactive nature of the educational relationship can help to normalize these situations and open up more opportunities to build upon the student’s existing resilience and foster more collaborative and helpful ways of interacting with the student.

Type of Presentation: Workshop  
Length of  Session: 75 - 180 minutes  
Max. Audience Size: Unlimited 


Dear Norman and Emma,
Just a note of appreciation for your presentations to the Partner Institute in Texas. You have an incredible ability to teach difficult lessons and impart values with sincerity and gentleness…and with humour. I have an added appreciation for your years of study, effort and the life experiences that have so masterfully prepared you.
I feel fortunate, indeed, that our paths crossed and will never forget the impact that you had on my heart and mind. May your influence translate in my actions in my family and community.
I also treasure the message of the “Credo for Support” video. The posters were the best teachers’ gifts to date. Thank-you for making them available and affordable. Keep doing the good stuff.
Come Back Soon!
— Lettitia Clay Texas Partners Institute

TALK TO ME: What Educators (and Others) can Learn about De-escalation from Hostage Negotiators
Hostage negotiators must quickly establish trust, build rapport, and foster collaboration with barricaded, suicidal and even homicidal individuals in extreme crisis situations. They are successful in resolving more than 90% of both domestic and international situations they are called upon to negotiate, and they are able do so without injury, loss of life or the use of coercion. After a year of conversations with prominent hostage negotiators all over North America about the relational, communication-based approaches they use, Emma Van der Klift outlines what she’s learned and shares some of these insights and skills and shares how this information can be applicable for support workers and teachers.

“I had the privilege of interviewing hostage negotiators from all over North America. Notable among these was Dominick Misino, who I was fortunate enough to interview 3 years before his untimely death in 2013. Misino was the negotiator who resolved the Lufthansa flight 592 hostage taking in 1993. During his career he successfully negotiated more than 200 incidents without a single loss of life, and then went on to become an international trainer. I also spoke with John Tost, the Canadian negotiator who successfully negotiated the Headingly Prison riots in Winnipeg in 1996. Another negotiator I interviewed, Robin Burcell, went on to become a forensic artist, and now writes best-selling crime novels! Yet another, Andy DeWeese retired from law enforcement only to become his county’s most successful by-law enforcement officer. He told me he’s never had to file a report or actually enforce anything. He credits his success to what he learned on the job as a police negotiator. He doesn’t threaten people; he talks to them. Others are trainers and practitioners from both Canada and the US.”

These ideas have proved helpful in reframing the narrative of behavioural support from a more traditional reliance on rewards and punishment to an approach based on communication, listening and empathy, and are part of an overarching philosophy of engagement that requires a move away from judgement to curiosity – perhaps best stated in the words of negotiators themselves; seeing a person in crisis as “just a person in a bad place”. Negotiators stress that when people are in crisis, responders must resist jumping to quick solutions and “go slow to go fast”. This workshop, which has been presented internationally to human service organizations, schools and universities offers unique and useful strategies that can assist support workers, teachers and parents to learn to less reactive and more responsive ways of working with individuals in crisis.

This workshop is specifically about how we can help someone to de-escalate when they are in crisis, and is also about how we can learn to effectively de-escalate ourselves. This workshop is for you if:

  • you’ve noticed that we keep having the same conversations with the same people and the results aren’t different

  • you’re interested in the idea of cross-pollination between different fields

  • you have noticed that people labelled “behaviour problems” often aren’t behaviour problems in every situation, and you’ve wondered why not

  • you believe that all behaviour makes sense – to someone, in some way

  • you are a curious person, and you like stories

  • you believe that relationship is the key to working successfully with people who are upset

Type of Presentation: Keynote or Workshop  
Length of  Session: 75 minutes  to 3 hours
Max. Audience Size: Unlimited 



IInclusive Education   |   Collaborative Behavioural Support   |   Friendship & Benevolence   |   Rethinking Disability