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The Autonomic Nervous System, Polyvagal Theory, and Student Behavior

Behaviorally based assessments and interventions are the dominant approaches for addressing problem behaviors in schools. This is seen at a school-wide level with disciplinary policies, in the classroom with level systems, and in work with individual students through Functional Behavioral Assessments (FBA) and Behavior Intervention Plans (BIP). Unfortunately, it is not working well and this may be because these approaches focus on the behavior and ignore the individual including their physiological state, the adaptive role of their behavior, and their developmental capacity to self-regulate. Fortunately, there is an alternative. Stephen Porges, Ph.D. proposed the Polyvagal Theory to explain the role of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) in detecting, accurately or inaccurately, signs of safety and threat in our environment (i.e., stress response) and the subsequent physiological responses, feelings, thoughts, and behaviors (e.g., engagement, defense, or shut down).

In his presentation, Dr. Bylund will be discussing the ANS, Polyvagal Theory, and how to apply this knowledge in assessing student behaviors as well as intervention strategies that serve to support a student’s behavioral regulation as well as social and academic engagement.

About Dr. James Bylund:

Dr. Bylund is a Licensed Educational Psychologist (LEP #3220) and Diplomate of the American Board of School Neuropsychology (ABSNP) specializing in the assessment and intervention of students' learning and behavior difficulties. Over his career Dr. Bylund has worked as a School Psychologist, SELPA Program Specialist, District Director of Student Support Services, Licensed Educational Psychologist in private practice, and Owner/Director of The Bylund Clinic. He is also a co-founder of the non-profit TechHealthy.org, which aims to empower families, schools, and mental health providers to protect their children, students, and clients from risks associated with technology overuse and misuse.