Webb Schools Find Disciplinary Alternative, Get Team Of the Year Award

Webb School
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The Webb Schools team was nominated for the Hartford Hospital Team of the Year Award after demonstrating excellence in its determined work to reduce the use of seclusion and restraints with students.

The schools implemented the Positive Relationships and Intervention Strategies (PRaIS) model, which was developed and implemented by Webb Schools Director Kikke Levin-Gerdner, EdD, and focuses on “positive behavior support” in the classrooms, shifting from behavior-focused to a whole-child perspective.

“It is based in strength-based positive relational intervention practice, attachment theory and trauma-based treatment theory. Each of these practices is based on the premise that all children and adolescents have an innate desire to be successful,” said Dr. Levin-Gerdner. “Over prior years, the schools made small decreases in the number of restraint and seclusions which, over the past year, were surpassed.”

The numbers tell the story. Decreases in restraints and seclusion, by school location, were:

  • Hartford, 47.87 percent
  • Avon, 65.19 percent
  • Cheshire, 23.25 percent

The Webb Schools staff members focus on helping students realize their potential through positive relationship building and strength-based intervention strategies in a non-punitive environment, Dr. Levin-Gerdner said.

Such tactics include:

  • Relationship building and restoration
  • Active listening
  • Respect and dignity
  • Student empowering through advisory boards
  • Positive staff interactions to model behaviors
  • Natural consequences
  • Teachable/educational behavioral strategies
  • Self-monitoring
  • Sensory modulation strategies
  • Modified “Rhythmic Movement” strategies
  • Mindfulness
  • Yoga
  • Physical activities
  • Positive Behavior Intervention Plans with student input
  • Adventure Based Course activities

It took about six years for the efforts to take root at the schools and “become the standard practice.”This year, the team marked significant reductions in the use of restraint and seclusions said Mara DeMaio, PhD, director, Child and Adolescent Services at the Institute of Living.

Dr. Levin-Gerdner offered a student story to illustrate the power of the new approach at Webb Schools. The boy had been referred to the school in 2018 after verbal and physical aggression and school avoidance in his regular school. In his first two months at Webb, he had 14 restraints, mostly first thing in the morning. He refused to go into his classroom for weeks, spending much of his time with the student support and educational coordinators.

“They worked with him one on one to finish his school work and engage in other activities,” Dr. Levin-Gerdner said. “By the end of the second week, they encouraged him to have lunch with someone from his classroom. He also started doing academic work with a peer, but only when one of the coordinators was there.”

During the same time, the student’s aggressive incidents decreased. The educational coordinator and he started sitting in the back of his classroom for short periods of time until he was in the class, on his own, for most of the school day. He used several scheduled breaks to work with the coordinators, a relationship that allowed him to take risks and see his success.

By the start of this school year, he needed very few breaks during the week and now discusses and resolves issues that come up with most staff so he can return to class. His peer relationships have improved significantly.

“He can actually joke about his safety issues last year and is proud of his progress. He has not had any incidents of seclusion or restraints in the past six months,” Dr. Levin-Gerdner said. “He is a perfect example of how the significant efforts in our schools have helped students learn more positive behaviors with a new team approach to discipline.”

For more information on work being done at the Webb Schools, click here.



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