Supporting Students with Intensive Needs

The goals of the Intensive Support Team (IST) are to engage in work that promotes racial equity & social justice, improve access to community resources, and support school capacity in responding to students with intensive needs, regardless of disability or disability status. IST and Building Bridges are comprised of staff members representing a cross section of teachers, student services staff, clinical coordinators, and administrators. Team members bring expertise in significant disabilities, trauma, behavior, mental health, autism, and community resources. IST and Building Bridges Staff Directory

The Intensive Support Team will maintain and utilize ongoing evaluation of data from a variety of sources in order to assess internal practices, identify trends to increase proactivity and responsiveness, and ultimately best serve schools.

IST Requests for Support

School teams initiate an IST request for support by completing a referral form at After submitting this request, schools will receive communication from the Intensive Support Team.  IST members are not assigned an attendance area/side of town. IST requests are assigned based on current capacity and caseload (IST does not have a caseload cap and will prioritize cases if needed)

Appropriate Referrals

Prior to submitting an IST request, school staff will have engaged in multi-disciplinary team problem-solving and implemented identified strategies/interventions. Appropriate IST referrals are typically for students in grades 4K-12 whose needs exceed what school staff are able to currently address, and who may benefit from additional consultation and problem-solving.   If there are questions about the appropriateness of the referral, please feel free to contact Brain Holmquist, or complete an IST Request for Support to consult about the student.

Intake Process

There will be an intake process as part of requesting services/supports for a student with significant needs in order to gather additional information to best match services and supports to the needs of the student and school team. School teams should expect regular meetings involving a team of multi-disciplinary school staff.

IST Service Delivery

The services and supports provided by the Intensive Support Team (IST) will vary depending on the specific needs of the school staff and student. A goal of IST is to support school capacity in responding to students with intensive needs.  The IST, in collaboration with the school team, will determine next steps. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • Brief Consultation
    These consultations are to implement or complete various processes and to assist school-based teams with problem solving on specific behaviors or needs.. Examples: Functional Behavior Assessment / Behavior Support and Safety Planning

  • Student-Specific Professional Development
    Professional Development related to a specific student and their intensive needs. These trainings are often focused on the application of district-wide trainings to a unique student situation. Examples: Student specific Nonviolent Crisis Intervention problem-solving and practice, student specific trauma training, etc.

  • Short Term Stabilization
    Short term stabilization is offered for up to 90 days to support team-identified goals and development of a school-based plan. Examples: Transitioning from Residential Care Centers (RCC), creating an Individualized Regulation Protocol, establishing connections to community resources. 

  • School/Community Coordination
    The coordinated support plan (e.g., wraparound plan) is an intensive, individualized care management process for youths with serious or complex needs. IST works to collaboratively develop an individualized plan of care, support the team in implementing this plan, and evaluating success over time. The plan typically includes working together with community services and interpersonal support to implement informal supports, formal services and interventions. 

Data Collection and Progress Monitoring

Follow-up assessment with school team will occur throughout the 90 day period. IST support request will include progress monitoring and data collection over time to determine whether to continue support or close request.  Continued support may include case consultation or presentation to review committee for alternatives/ intensive intervention programs.

  • Case Consultation
    Consultation/ coordination with additional building staff, community resources, and/or other central office staff.

  • Psychiatric Consultations
    The Intensive Support Team contracts with the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, Department of Psychiatry to provide professional psychiatric consultations for up to 12 referred students each year. The consultations will be used when a student's intensive need is not met through traditional school assessment and intervention and instead requires a deeper analysis by a medical professional.  The consultation is related to medications, diagnoses, programmatic interventions, and individual intervention. There will be a brief psychiatric evaluation of the student, which may include observations, interviews, formal assessments and record reviews in order to help facilitate student and family connections with psychiatrists who will be able to monitor and provide services to the student. ***A brief consultation with a UW Psychiatry Fellow may also be available as an option

  • Presentation to Review Committee for Alternatives / Intensive Intervention Program
     The Intensive Support Team assists school teams in identifying appropriate referrals to the MMSD Special Education Alternatives/ Intensive Intervention Programs.

IST Flowchart