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These students have difficulty distinguishing their thoughts and perceptions from reality. Their thinking is typically illogical, confused, or irrational (e.g., speech patterns that jump from one topic to another with no meaningful connection); their emotional responses may be out of control; and their behavior may appear bizarre and disturbing. The student may experience hallucinations (often auditory), and may report hearing voices (e.g., statements that someone is threatening to harm or control them). If you cannot make sense of a student's statements, contact Counseling and Psychological Services as soon as possible.
- Respond with warmth, kindness, and firm reasoning.
- Remove extra stimulation from the environment (turn off the radio, step outside of a noisy classroom).
- Explain your concerns and assist the student in getting help. Contact Counseling and Psychological Services as soon as possible.
- Acknowledge the student's feelings or fears without supporting the misperception ("I understand you think someone is following you, and it must seem real to you, but I don't see anyone.")
- Acknowledge that you are having difficulty understanding the student and ask for clarification.
- Focus on the here and now.
- Arguing or trying to convince the student of the irrationality of her or his thinking, as this commonly reinforces the false perception.
- Encouraging further discussion of the delusional processes or playing along with the student's delusion ("Oh, yes, I hear voices, too.")
- Demanding, commanding, or ordering the student to do something to change her or his perceptions.
- Expecting customary emotional responses.
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