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Low arousal approach is about creating a caring environment charactericed by calm and positive expectations aiming to decrease stress and challenging behavior. The methods load heavily on changing staff and parents´s thoughts and conceptions and on body language, physical distance and conflict evaluation.

The ethical base of his methods described as Everyone has the right to say no. The task of the staff is to make the person say yes voluntarily.

”Only by accepting everybody’s right to say no we can get a real and honest yes.”

The Low Arousal Approach is based on the notion that people with behaviours of concern often have trouble regulating affect. They often react to other’s affects by experiencing and expressing the same affect. Affect is always contagious, but most people learn to differentiate between own and other’s affects early in life. Some people don’t. They don’t know if an affect they feel is their own or somebody else’s. That can result in anger if somebody else is angry and telling off the one who tells you off. We also know that challenging behavior often occurs when the someone experinces a high intensity of affect.

Low arousal approach is based on developmental neuropsychology and affect theory, but not only that. There is also an ethical and a philosophical base, that can be described as two principles, the principles of responsibility and control, and a basic assumption about humanity. The philosophical base is:

We need to use this knowledge in monitoring our own affect levels. We must use methods that protects the person with special needs or child and ourselves from an increase in affect intensity, both in the way we talk to and relate to the child or person with special needs and in our methods concerning challenging and even violent or self-harming behavior.


Bo Hejlskov Elvén is an clinical psychologist based in Scandinavia. He works with guidance and lecturing concerning managing challenging behavior. He is currently a PhD student at HELS, Birmingham City University. His field is care and special education, mainly concerning children and adults with developmental disabilities such as autism, Asperger’s syndrome, ADHD or intellectual disabilities. He also works in the psychiatric field and in juvenile correction facilities. The basis of his methods is developmental neuropsychology, stress and affect theory. The methods are part of an increasing knowledge base in the tradition often named Low Arousal Approach.


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