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A Polyvagal Approach for Educators Exploring Discipline Protocols

Course Status:


A Polyvagal Approach for Educators Exploring Discipline Protocols

CE's Available:



Cost: $




Lori Desautels, PhD

Course Overview

Meet Lori Desautels, PhD in this one minute video. Our nervous systems and physiological states create and produce the behaviors we observe, question, discuss, punish, suspend, seclude, and attend to in all moments throughout the day! As educators who sit with 30 to 180 plus nervous systems every day, we have traditionally paid attention to observable behaviors, assessing them as appropriate, disrespectful, inappropriate, oppositional, aggressive, manipulative, and a variety of other labels and classifications. Polyvagal Theory and social and affective neuroscience research now share that education requires “state regulation” so we are able to access and integrate the cognitive and mental tasks we need to succeed in school and positively navigate life experiences. We hope that these modules will be a part of your procedures, routines, and transitions as you prepare the student’s nervous system for the challenges and lived experiences of the day! When we are intentional about acknowledging our autonomic nervous systems, we are building capacity in our bodies for safety and connection. Most of us in the western part of the world have been conditioned, parented, and schooled through the lens of Behaviorism. Conventionally, our school systems and structures have embedded behaviorism along with contingency programs that address and focus on compliance and control. Many of these contingency behavioral regulations and handbooks mirror zero tolerance policies from the 1990s and early 2000’s often designed by racially privileged school leaders and groups that have unintentionally increased discipline racial inequities and disparities for our children and youth of color, culture, and special education populations. Many educators have grown up with the “law and order” mentality that focuses on accountability solely through the lens of observable behaviors. In the United States today, we implement corporal punishment in 19 states. But we have a significant disconnect. Our most troubled youth and children are carrying in nervous systems that have been reprogrammed to defend and protect and are wired in a survival brain and body state. The pandemic has added layers of adversity and trauma inside the lives of our children, families, and communities. Children remain the poorest age group in America, with children of color and young children suffering the highest poverty levels. In this course, we will address the nervous system states, implicit memories, and the survival drive that addresses these behavioral challenges from our students and the chronic fatigue and overwhelm our educators are experiencing at this time. In this 10-hour course, participants will gain a deeper understanding of how our nervous systems drive our neuroception, perception, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in all moments. We will explore educator nervous system states and the contagiousness of our emotions through the lens of Polyvagal Theory. We will uncover the sensations that drive us to protect ourselves and the conditions that cultivate felt safety. We will explore how coregulation is attuned to “getting out ahead of negative behaviors” and is the cornerstone for this new lens of discipline. Upon completion of this course, participants will: BENEFITS: --Gain a deeper understanding of how our nervous systems drive our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors according to Polyvagal Theory --Develop practices to uncover the sensations that drive us to protect ourselves --Learn how to cultivate felt safety and co-regulate your students to get ahead of negative behaviors LEARNING OBJECTIVES: 1. Understand how the developing nervous system is impacted by personal and community adversity and trauma through discussions, personal reflections, and shared case studies. 2. Explore four pillars of applied educational neuroscience through the lens of Polyvagal Theory and how the practices and science inform the educator’s nervous system, supporting all students and educators through procedures, transitions, and routines creating environments and relationships that cultivate safety while strengthening relationships. 3. Discuss and explore the implications for rewiring our perceptions of discipline through coregulation and teaching our staff and students about the language of the sciences and the principles of Polyvagal Theory. 4. Complete reflective exercises to explore and share with our colleagues and students as we identify our activators and begin installing resources and practices that meet our children and youth in their nervous system states. 5. Practice Focused Attention Practices that activate the parasympathetic pathways in the nervous system integrating breath, movement, sounds, visualizations, and sensory experiences that assist in helping educators and students establish and maintain a ventral vagal state of social engagement, felt- safety, and co-regulation with students, especially during escalating power struggles and conflicts. 6. Cultivate and integrate time and nervous system-aligned practices inside of procedures addressing state-dependent functioning while fostering a restorative healing environment as a Tier One practice for all staff and students. Students will have access to the course for 180 days from the date of purchase.


There are three 3-hour live sessions on May 6, May 20, and June 3 (Saturdays) 10:00am - 1:00pm ET (US & Canada). There will be approximately 1 hour of prerecorded video. Over these 10-hours, the following will be covered: Session 1: Understanding Nervous System Development Through the Lens of Polyvagal Theory and the Implications of Understanding Inside Our Schools --Introduce PVT and key terms: Neuroception, Vagus Nerve, Brain Development, and How Adversity and Trauma can live in the nervous system of our educators and students. --Explore the neuroscience of how the nervous system responds to a real or perceived threat and how this impacts the process of teaching, learning, engagement, and behaviors. --Explore the expanded ACEs study and the Adverse Community Environments and how these adversities impact behaviors and learning. Session 2: The Adult Nervous System and Collective Nervous Systems in Our Schools and Districts --Exploring our understanding of how our nervous systems perceive threats, activate, and hold awareness as we sit beside our staff and students each day. Explore the practices of somatic awareness and co-regulation as we meet our students in their nervous system development. --Teach Focused Attention Practices and Nervous System Aligned Bell Work as part of our procedures and routines that can be integrated to increase vagal tone and enhance access to the ventral vagal state to acknowledge and eventually disrupt our survival nervous system states. --Understand the importance of the psoas muscle and Sternocleidomastoid Muscle for creating a grounded, embodied presence (TRE Practices) Session 3: Exploring the Body’s Response to Adversity, Trauma, and Stress --Review the 3 core Principles of Polyvagal Theory and the four pillars of Applied Educational Neuroscience and their partnership for our schools and districts. --Introduce Protective Figures, Wise Figures, Nurturing Figures, and anchors as we begin to model practices for providing resources in front of negative behaviors. --Menus for Change (somatic, journaling, art, music, and the reverence of our identities) Session 4: Co-regulation at the Heart of the New Lens For Discipline --Introduce co-regulation and the variety of ways we lean into and need one another through attachment processes and the developing nervous system. (Co-regulation is not rewarding negative behavior) --Cultivate touch points throughout our days as we become intentional about our procedures, routines, and transitions as preventative nervous system-aligned discipline practices. --Explore the gaps, biases, and alignment of our current discipline protocols and how these physical records inside our schools mirror the nervous system states of our students and educators. Session 5: Building the Nest and the Power of Stories as we Establish Environmental and Cultural Cues of Felt-Safety --Understand how the internal, external, and relational environments impact behaviors and learning, and especially the psychological safety of marginalized students --Explore how leaders can integrate the power of story-telling to build authenticity and connection in the schools and classrooms --Explore and cultivate resiliency teams in our schools so that we are able to establish a ‘medium backup system’ that provides the felt safety that is required so students and staff can access the cortex enhanced by ventral vagal states.



Recommended Audience

educators, principals, district administrators, behaviorists/ABAs, school-based therapists

CE's and/or Certificate of Completion Available

CEs available: 10


Lori Desautels, PhD

Dr. Lori Desautels has been an Assistant Professor at Butler University since 2016 where she teaches both undergraduate and graduate programs in the College of Education. Lori is a former special education teacher and school counselor. In 2016, Lori created a nine-hour graduate certification at Butler University in Applied Educational Neuroscience/Brain and Trauma. Lori Is the author of four books and her latest book, “Connections over Compliance: Rewiring Our Perception of Discipline” was released in 2020. Lori co-authored the social and emotional competencies for the state of Indiana and created a 100-day educational Neuroscience toolkit for educators worldwide. Lori writes for Edutopia and co-teaches in schools where she shares the application of her research in K-12 classrooms.

Lori Desautels, PhD


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