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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Using a Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) based behaviour plan in elementary schools Viljoen, Lisa Kim


There is a growing body of evidence that early stress such as neglect, maltreatment and other adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) affect the way a children’s brain develops, making them more vulnerable to mental health problems. When these children reach school age, they are more likely to be identified as having learning, behaviour or social problems, and becoming students “at-risk”. The literature suggests that one of the reasons why these children have difficulty in school is that their nervous systems may be geared to prioritize managing fear rather than to processing information. In other words, the lower-order stress response system is given priority over the higher-level functions of processing information and learning, including executive functions. This study was a naturalistic pilot project designed to assess the use of a Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) assessment to inform a behaviour plan for elementary school students who have a history of adverse childhood experiences. The study involved two cohorts of four children, ages 6 – 9, who had a history of adverse childhood experiences and had been identified as needing a high level of behavioural support within the mainstream classroom. Over a period of 4 months, one cohort received a trauma-informed behaviour plan based on an NMT assessment, the other cohort received a behaviour plan based on a Functional Behaviour Assessment. Percentage of academic engaged time and heart rate variability were tracked over the course of the intervention. Pre and post measures of executive functions were gathered. For the four students in the NMT cohort, a pre and post NMT metric was produced, as well as a pre- and post NME mini map. Neither of the interventions were demonstrated to be effective, which is most likely due to the complex challenges of the naturalistic setting in the school context. However, some interesting trends were identified that would suggest that further research would be warranted.

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