Studio 3 trainer Keri Dickson is a lead practitioner from Northern Ireland who delivers Low Arousal Training at Introductory and Advanced levels online to families, professionals, and staff teams every Friday. In this article, Keri reflects on the Low Arousal Approach.
Practicing positive psychology and supporting individuals in a Low Arousal way coincides with my personal ethos of proactive support rather than that of reactive planning, although both are essential to aid effective coping mechanisms, stress reduction, and to facilitate a person’s overall well-being. I am a Lead Trainer in Low Arousal Training, working with the Training and Clinical Services teams to provide support and deliver courses on Managing Signs of Stress to staff teams and families. With over 12 years' experience, my background is in adult and children's services in Northern Ireland. Before Studio 3, I was a Service Manager for an organisation supporting autistic adults, individuals with intellectual disabilities, and people with acquired brain injuries. My role throughout my career has been focused to guide services and teams towards person-centred support, with Low Arousal strategies rooted into care practices. I worked in front-line roles and continue to work with families, their loved ones, and organisations who endeavour to create a safe, calm, and happy environment for those supporting and being supported.
Low Arousal Fridays
I deliver the Low Arousal Approach Foundation course online every Friday (morning and afternoon sessions now available) and Advanced Low Arousal Training with small groups. The Low Arousal Approach is a person-centred, non-confrontational method of managing behaviours indicative of stress and distress. This approach has evolved to become a practical crisis-management approach, not only for people with intellectual disabilities and or autism, but for the care sector in general.
Our Low Arousal course focuses on the link between physiological arousal and behaviours of distress, seeking to reduce arousal in crisis situations and therefore de-escalate and manage those distressed behaviours.
Our position in Studio 3 is rooted in working with individuals using the least possible restrictions, both physical and in terms of control. We are actively involved with the reduction of restrictive practices, paying particular attention to the avoidance of confrontation. This is primarily achieved by the reduction of stress triggers within the environment or supporters which may physiologically arouse an individual who presents with behaviours of stress.
Within Low Arousal Training, we discuss and consider both cognitive and behavioural elements from the perspective of those we may support. At Studio 3, the aim is to challenge care giver beliefs about the short-term management of ‘challenging’ behaviours through restrictive practice, and redirect attention towards stress management and understanding the function a particular behaviour may have for a person who is overwhelmed and close to emotional crisis. These behaviours of stress (which are unique to every individual – at Studio 3 we call this a person’s ‘stress signature’) will allow carers, support teams, and families to develop effective support methods, co-regulate, and role model effective coping strategies.
“It can be extremely scary for people to manage an angry and distressed person. Most individuals who are distressed are usually extremely aroused at the time (leading to their reduced ability to process information) and so practitioners of the Low Arousal Approach advise avoiding actions or demands that will further arouse this person: i.e., ‘Don’t pour fuel on the fire.’” – Professor Andrew McDonnell (2018)
The Low Arousal Approach creates windows of opportunity for staff, families and individuals being supported to use their knowledge of one another in times of increasing stress to de-escalate and reassure in a safe and compassionate manner. Within both the Foundation and Advanced courses there is a focus on positive psychology in relation to well-being and trauma-informed practice.
Low Arousal Approach is continues to be embedded into the care industry, with the approach being taught and implemented on a global level thanks to the power of online training, improving the lives and well-being of individuals and their supporters in meaningful and positive ways.
I hope to see many more people join the online cohort of Low Arousal practitioners as we continue to deliver Low Arousal Training at Introductory level every Friday, with morning sessions available from 9.30am UK Time, as well as afternoon sessions on the first Friday of every month. To enquire about small group Advanced training, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information about Low Arousal Online Training is available here: www.studio3.org/low-arousal-online
Written by Keri Dickson,
Lead Studio 3 Trainer