Session 4–Understanding and Responding to Challenging Behavior Using a Holistic Approach

Our blog post takes a look at children’s challenging behaviors from several different angles: education, mental health, and neuroscience.

When children use behaviors that challenge us, we need strategies to respond that are aligned to positive behavior support, healthy social-emotional development and that consider what is happening inside the child and inside ourselves when these situations occur.

Participants had a foundational understanding of practices that support children and prevent challenging behavior, such as environmental design and high-quality interactions.

This session provided opportunities for personal reflection, small group work, large group discussion and case studies.

Session objectives

In this session, participants:

  • Learned more about the acceleration cycle (what is happening inside the child during a behavior incident) and how the child’s ability to respond to external cues and factors is impacted during the cycle
  • Learned relationship-based strategies and positive behavior support plans to promote health social-emotional development during episodes of challenging behavior
  • Reflected on personal beliefs related to children’s challenging behavior
  • Identified self-care options to remain a regulation partner for children

Intended audience

Early childhood educators, including general education and special education teachers and paraprofessionals, early childhood mental health providers, and social workers

Intended skill level



Sally Hansen

Sally Hansen
Sally Hansen, MA, MFT, is a Region 11 Early Childhood Special Education Professional Development Facilitator (ECSE PDF) for the Minnesota Centers of Excellence for Young Children with Disabilities (MNCoE). She has been working in the field of early childhood education and children’s mental health since 2001. Sally worked at St. David’s Center in their therapeutic preschool program and supported early childhood educators as a behavior consultant.

She has provided training on the Social-Emotional Teaching Pyramid Model; she is an external coach for seven programs using the Pyramid Model in her role with MNCoE. Sally holds both a B.S. degree in Psychology and Communication Studies and a M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy.