A Paradigm Shift in Understanding Children’s Behavior: Conversations with Drs. Delahooke and Porges

Course Price

$99

Course length

3 hours

About the course

Module One (40 min): Understanding Behaviors Through a Polyvagal Lens

This module presents a discussion about the larger idea underlying the paradigm shift in understanding human behaviors. Currently, in education and in all methods that focus on behaviors, everything is “outside the body”.  Dr. Porges and Dr. Delahooke discuss the behavioral model vs physiological model through the polyvagal perspective. Through this lens ground zero for understanding our kids is their physiology, not their behavior.

Topics of the discourse include:  How to read the language of the body: When is a child in a state of threat? Which cues trigger and which support our kids? How can we integrate the body into our treatment and parenting approaches?  To what degree should we rely on standardized testing results for those with attention and neuro differences?

“As human beings we start out grounded in our biological survival instincts—those processes that help us stay alive—and our ‘psychology’ is built upon how our caregivers meet our biological perceptions of the environment.”


Module Two (49 min): The Power of Respecting a Child’s (and Parent’s) Physiological State

In this module Dr. Porges and Dr. Delahooke explore the underpinnings of physiological state, with Dr. Porges explaining how feelings, emotions and behaviors are a derivative of physiological state. Central to the conversation is the concept of neuroception, which Dr. Delahooke explains through real life examples.  Neuroception is the key concept in understanding and redefining behaviors as adaptations.

The conversation includes discussion of neural exercises of state regulation, creating ‘safety’ in the classroom, and the narratives that are conducive to successful learning.  Persistently challenging and disruptive behaviors are responses to a child’s subconscious perception of risk in the physical or relational environment. When a child is acting defensively, (fighting, fleeing, or shutting down) the child’s body is involved in a process aimed at basic survival. These internal processes are invisible and below the surface; what we observe are the challenging behaviors that result.

“Instead of focusing on what we do to children, we prioritize how we are with them. Instead of focusing on eliminating behaviors, we need to provide children with signals of safety (personalized to their nervous systems) that allow social-engagement behaviors to emerge spontaneously.”


Module Three (45 min): Individualizing Education and Caregiving

Now that they’ve set the groundwork, Dr. Porges reviews the way in which our emotions have come to be regarded as a brain process rather than a whole body process.  Through personal stories and cases, Drs. Porges and Delahooke discuss how important it is for educators and mental health professionals to shift their thinking to a whole-body view of both emotions and intellect.   Top-down methods can be very helpful, but they must be enhanced by a knowledge of our physiology and the importance of our visceral feeling.

The hierarchy of our autonomic states, the hybrid states, the power of vocal tones, and efficient modes of calming children are discussed in the context of the school environment.  The conversation includes the way in which our social engagement system developed as a calming system which helps us calm ourselves and co-regulate others is presented, as well as our need for sociality, and the way in which our social skills cannot be accessed when we are in a state of threat.

“Many children don’t progress at school because their treatment plans fail to recognize the powerful importance of relational safety underlying their anxiety and affecting their ability to learn.”


Module Four (46 min): Real life Examples & Application

Dr. Porges and Dr. Delahooke refer to their own experiences as a father and a mother as they explore topics such as  nurturing your child’s state to build resilience through non-verbal cues, understanding the unintentional nature of your child’s behavior, and, perhaps most importantly, the notion that understanding your own state is essential to giving the right cues and co-regulating your children and students.  The module also includes commentary on how Covid influenced our states during 2020 and 2021 as we all tried to cope with the unnatural lack of social engagement.

“The main takeaway for parents and teachers is that one's own physiological state matters, so self-care and self-compassion allows us to better provide co-regulation when they need it.  In the words of Deb Dana, we all need to learn how to ‘befriend our own nervous systems.’” (Dana, 2018)


You will have access to the course materials for 60 days from the date of purchase.

Instructor Information:

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Mona Delahooke, PhD

Mona Delahooke, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist with more than 30 years of experience caring for children and their families. She is a senior faculty member of the Profectum Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting families of neurodiverse children, adolescents and adults. She is a trainer for the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health.

Dr. Delahooke holds the highest level of endorsement in the field of infant and toddler mental health in California, as a Reflective Practice Mentor (RPM). She is a frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant to parents, organizations, schools, and public agencies. Dr. Delahooke has dedicated her career to promoting compassionate, relationship-based interventions for children and families exposed to trauma and those with developmental, behavioral, emotional, and learning differences.

She is the author of the Best-Selling Beyond Behaviors: Using Brain Science and Compassion to Understand and Solve Children’s Behavioral Challenges (PESI, 2019), which won the Gold Medal 2020 Award from the Independent Book Publisher’s Association, and Social and Emotional Development in Early Intervention: A Skills Guide for Working with Children (PESI, 2017). Her popular blog, at www.monadelahooke.com covers a range of topics useful for caregivers and childhood providers.

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Stephen W. Porges, PhD

Stephen W. Porges, Ph.D. is Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University where he is the founding director of the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium in the Kinsey Institute. He is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He served as president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences and is a former recipient of a National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist Development Award. He is the originator of the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that emphasizes the importance of physiological state in the expression of behavioral, mental, and health problems related to traumatic experiences. He is also the creator of a music-based intervention, the Safe and Sound Protocol ™, which is used by therapists to improve language processing, state regulation, and spontaneous social engagement.

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