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Wraparound as a Tertiary Behaviour Support in Inclusive Schools

By Dr. Nadine Bartlett, PhD.


There are an increasing number of children and youth with severe to profound emotional and behavioural challenges (Waddell, McEwan, Shepherd, Offord & Hua, 2005). Externalizing behavioural challenges often surface in childhood and therefore teachers may be the first to observe these worrisome behaviours (Kessler, Berglund, Demler, Jin, & Walters, 2005; Hymel, Schonert-Reichl & Miller, 2006). Given the sense of urgency in addressing these needs, provincial policies have been developed in an effort to guide the actions of schools and partnering service providers in sectors including education, child and family services, health, mental health and youth justice in providing support. In the province of Manitoba, one such provincial protocol is The Wraparound Approach for Children and Youth with Severe to Profound Emotional and Behavioural Disorders (Healthy Child Manitoba, 2013).

What is the Wraparound Approach?

The Wraparound Approach, is an emerging evidence-based practice for planning and individualizing supports for children and youth with severe emotional and behavioural challenges that involves the collaboration of multiple service providers (VanDenBerg, 2008). This approach was originally developed to provide unconditional care to children and youth with severe emotional and behavioural challenges through the provisions of child and family centered, needs-driven, individualized and flexible support. The overall premise of the Wraparound Approach is to enhance options for children, youth, and their families by building collaborative Wraparound teams, who together tailor supports that lead to improved outcomes (VanDenBerg, 2008). In other jurisdictions, the Wraparound Approach has been primarily led by community-based service providers. However, research shows that when this approach is led by community-based service providers such as those in the mental health field, there are increased barriers to the receipt of services for children and youth, including stigma associated with receiving mental health support, accessibility challenges, and increased costs (Catron, Harris, & Weiss, 1998).

Wraparound as a Tertiary Behaviour Support in Inclusive Schools

There is much evidence to suggest that inclusive schools have many of the requisite conditions that may support the leadership and implementation of the Wraparound Approach including: (a) mandates for service provision, (b) daily contact with children, youth and families, (c) broad-based support like resource teachers, counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers, (d) an individualized education planning process [IEP], and (e) a continuum of behavioural supports. Using the framework of Positive Behaviour Intervention and Supports (PBIS), the Wraparound Approach may be seamlessly integrated into a school-wide continuum of behaviour support as a tertiary support for children and youth with severe emotional and behavioural challenges (Eber, Sugai, Smith, & Scott, 2002; Eber, 2008).

Implementing the Wraparound Approach

In order to implement the Wraparound Approach with fidelity designated school staff including but not limited to resource teachers, school counsellors, school social workers or school psychologists require training in Wraparound Facilitation. This training involves learning about the guiding principles of the Wraparound Approach, the development of a Wraparound Plan, and the essential skills of group facilitation (VanDenBerg & Rast, 2003). A certified Wraparound Facilitator is equipped to support the Wraparound team in following a structured practice model and developing a shared plan of support that transcends traditional service systems boundaries, sets measurable goals and assesses progress.

Leadership of the Wraparound Approach

Research in the area of the Wraparound indicates that the designation of a lead organization is a prerequisite to successful implementation (Fixen, Naoom, Blase, Friedman, & Wallace, 2005). In order for the Wraparound Approach to be incorporated as a tertiary behaviour support in schools, schools need to be officially designated as the lead organization and the associated roles and responsibilities of all partnering service providers need to be clearly delineated. The designation of the school as the lead organization in the provision of Wraparound support provides: “(a) formal structures that foster interdependence among service providers, (b) opportunities to blend funding and de-categorize support, (c) a single point of entry to receive services and enhanced information sharing, and (d) opportunities to overcome discipline-based decision making” (Bartlett, 2015).

Inclusion for All

In many Canadian jurisdictions students with severe emotional and behavioural challenges continue to be placed in segregated classrooms and segregated schools. If inclusive education is truly intended for all then schools need to be equipped to address the needs of all learners including those with severe emotional and behavioural challenges.

Incorporating the Wraparound Approach as a part of a school-wide continuum of Positive Behaviour Interventions and Supports in partnership with families and other service providers is essential. It sets the stage to develop highly individualized and integrated plans of support for some of the most vulnerable children and youth which may ultimately improve their life outcomes.



Bartlett, N. (2015). Supporting students with emotional and behavioural disorders: The wraparound approach in the context of a community school. (Doctoral dissertation). University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada.

Eber, L. (2008). Wraparound: A key component of school-wide systems of positive behavior supports. In E. J. Bruns & J. S. Walker (Eds.), The resource guide to wraparound. Portland, OR: National Wraparound Initiative, Research and Training Center for Family Support and Children’s Mental Health.

Eber, L., Sugai, G. Smith, C., & Scott, T. (2002). Wraparound and positive behavioural interventions and supports in the schools. Journal of Emotional and Behavioural Disorders, 10(3), 171–180.

Healthy Child Manitoba. (2013). Wraparound protocol for children and youth with severe to profound emotional and behavioural disorders. Winnipeg, MB: Author. Retrieved on November 21, 2017 from: http://www.gov.mb.ca/healthychild/publications/protocol_ebd_wraparound.pdf

Hymel, S., Schonert-Reichl, K.A., & Miller, L.D. (2006). Reading,’riting, ‘rithmetic and relationships: considering the social side of education. Exceptionality Education Canada, 16(3), 1-44.

Kessler, R. C., Berglund, P. Demler, D., Jin, R., Merikangas, K. R., & Walters, E. E. (2005). Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62(6), 593–602.

Mental Health Commission of Canada. (2012). Changing directions, changing lives: The mental health strategy for Canada. Calgary, AB: Author.

VanDenBerg, J. (2008). Reflecting on wraparound: Inspirations, innovations, and future direction. In Bruns, E.J., & Walker, J.S. (Eds.), The Resource Guide to Wraparound. Portland, OR: National Wraparound Initiative, Research and Training Centre for Family Support and Children’s Mental Health.

VanDenBerg, J., & Rast, J. (2003). Wraparound coaching and supervision toolkit. Englewood, CO: Vroon VanDenBerg.

Waddell, C., McEwan, K., Shepherd, C. A., Offord, D. R., & Hua, J. M. (2005). A public health strategy to improve the mental health of Canadian children. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 50(4), 226–233.


Dr. Nadine Bartlett is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Administration, Foundations and Psychology in the area of Inclusive Education at the University of Manitoba. Nadine has 22 years of experience in the public school system as a classroom teacher, resource teacher and student services administrator. Her career as an educator has included teaching in urban, rural and Northern Indigenous communities. Her research focuses on inclusive, person-centered and strength-based models of support for marginalized children, youth and families.

This commentary originally appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of Education Watch.