When you encounter a student who displays irrational or inappropriate behavior or appears to be out of touch with reality:
- Acknowledge the student’s feelings or fears without supporting the misconceptions (e.g., “I understand you think someone is following you, and it must seem real to you, but I don’t see anyone and I believe you are safe.”)
- Remove extra stimulation from the environment (i.e., step outside of the classroom, turn off any radios)
- Acknowledge your concerns and verbalize that the student needs assistance.
- Acknowledge the difficulty in understanding the student and ask for clarification.
- Respond with warmth and kindness but use firm reasoning.
- Be aware that the student may show no emotions or intense emotions.
- Be aware that the student may be extremely fearful to the extent of paranoia.
- Be aware that the student may not understand you or understand only pieces of what is being said.
- Crowd the student’s personal space.
- Assume the student will be able to take care of him/herself when out of touch with reality.
- Agitate the student. Be flexible in the manner you proceed with the student.
- Argue with the student’s erroneous thought processes. Trying to convince them of the irrationality of their thinking commonly produces a stronger defense of the false perception.
- Play along (e.g., “oh yes, I hear the voices too.”) Don’t encourage further discussion of delusional processes.
- Don’t demand, command or order the student to do something to change their perceptions.
- Chase after a student who decides to run. Call (802) 656-3473 for assistance from UVM Police Services.
- Allow a student’s friends to take care of the student without getting a professional opinion.