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Trauma Informed Teaching

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Rachel Narrow

on 28 September 2018

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Transcript of Trauma Informed Teaching

Do you teach students who have experienced trauma?
Types of Trauma
Trauma Informed Teaching
What is Trauma?
A life threatening or extremely frightening experience for the child or someone they care about, that overwhelms the child's ability to cope

The impact of a potentially traumatic event is determined by both:
The objective nature of the event
The child's subjective response to it
Warning Signs (cont.)
Visible changes in behavior, physical condition, thoughts, or feelings such as:
Social withdrawal, isolation, or loss of interest in social interaction
Diminished involvement in usual interests, activities, or hobbies
Increased risk-taking behaviors, recklessness, or aggressiveness
Decreased academic performance
Increased use of alcohol or drugs
Frequent unexplained lateness, absence from school or regular activities
Crying easily
Abrupt changes in appearance
Recent weight or appetite change
Change in sleep patterns
Exhaustion, laziness, extreme drowsiness
Inability to concentrate or think rationally
Exaggerated fears, extreme anxiety, or depression
Low self-esteem
Hopelessness or helplessness
Increased irritability or anger, mood swings or withdrawal from communication


What Can We Do?
Urban Poverty and Trauma

Think about a youth walking down the street in an upper-middle class neighborhood. If someone comes up and demands his cell phone, probably his automatic response is going to be to hand it over and then go run and tell an adult. And he’s built up that automatic response over many years of being in situations where that has become very adaptive, where adults are reliable, where compliance is a constructive behavior. When that kid then shifts over to the classroom and the teacher says, “Alright, everyone sit down. It’s time to start class,” compliance might be the automatic behavior, and it’s very adaptive.

Now think about a youth who’s growing up in a much poorer neighborhood where there’s a lot more chaotic environments, where compliance is probably not the adaptive thing. There’s a lot of evidence about street life in poorer neighborhoods and how important it is to stand up for yourself to show that you’re not a victim, because if you just comply with every request that comes your way, you’re going to get beaten up quite a lot. And so there you might develop an automatic response that’s a little bit maybe more aggressive, more assuming that other people are hostile, trying to avoid conflict until it comes and then really strongly standing up for yourself. And so if someone in that environment, on the street says, “Hey, give me your cell phone,” your response is probably going to be at least a little bit less polite than, “Here you go.”

If you think about what that person might do, there might be shoving or fighting, there might be some profanity. If you then think about that youth in a classroom where the teacher says, “Everyone sit down so we can start class,” that might feel like automatically the same situation: Someone is challenging you. You might feel like something is at stake for you. But if you have that same aggressive reaction in front of the teacher, you’re going to get kicked out of class. It’s not that the youth in a poor area is any more automatic, or that the rich youth are behaving less automatically. Everyone’s applying this automatic behavior, but youth in poor neighborhoods face so many different kinds of situations. Their situations are more variable and when the context varies, that’s particularly hard for automatic responses; you’re going to be more likely to have a maladaptive response.

Attention, memory, and cognition
Speech production, understanding and interpreting
Ability to focus, organize, and process
Problem solving and planning
Overwhelming feelings of frustration and anxiety
Agitation and aggression
Low self-esteem, hopelessness, lack of motivation
Effects of Chronic Trauma
Acute – single event

Chronic – repeated, ongoing

Complex – chronic under the age of 5, usually at the hands of the people who are supposed to provide care and nurturing
47% in DC, compared to 41% in MD and VA

In DC, 16 percent of white children, compared with 55 percent of nonwhite children

(2016 National Survey of Children's Health)
One in four DC children live in poverty (less than $24,000 a year for a family of four)
In Wards 7 and 8, almost half of children

Approximately 4,000 DC public school students were homeless (2013-2014 school year)

Children living in urban poverty are more likely to experience:
family chaos
death of a family member
abuse and neglect

In DC:
40% percent of high school students reported seeing or hearing violence and abuse during the past 12 months.
33,000 domestic violence calls made to DC police in 2013
Highest rate of incarceration in the nation - 1 out of every 50 adults

(Children’s Law Center, Addressing Childhood Trauma in DC Schools)
Sources of Trauma
Witnessing domestic violence
Removal from home
Multiple foster placements
Community violence
Loss of loved ones
Natural disasters
With trauma and stress, the brain floods with adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol

Fight/Flight/Freeze: the body's natural defense against trauma

Complex trauma wires people's brains to respond this way all the time

Survival responses become patterns, even when they are not needed

Trauma is a physiological response in the nervous system
What do We Do?
Trauma Response
What Can We Do:
In the Moment Interventions
PTSD Symptoms
Affect Dysregulation
Avoidant Strategies
What Can We Do: Long Term Interventions
What We Can Do:
In the Moment AND Long Term
Open the mind to noticing, without judgment, how they feel, think, and interact
What Can We Do: Long Term Interventions
What Can We Do: Rules, Discipline, and Consequences
Children who have experienced trauma sometimes come from home environments in which power is exercised arbitrarily and absolutely. It is important for these children to learn to differentiate between rules and discipline methods that are abusive and those that are in their best interest.
Make situations predictable - students need to know what to expect and when to expect it

Systems and Routines for:
Starting/ending class
What's on the desk
Make up work
Organization (binders, notebooks, papers)
Starting a task
Independent work
Educators' mindset: think fight, flight, freeze vs. willful, defiant, troublemaker

Look for changes in affect, awareness, and action

Voice tone - low and quiet

Short sentences: "You are safe here." or "I'm here to help you get through this."

"Use your words" --> they CAN'T

Grounding exercises - stay connected to surroundings
When we do not TEACH adaptive automatic behaviors, we are reinforcing maladaptive ones.
Social Emotional Learning - All day, every day!

Emotion Regulation: experiencing and expressing feelings in a way that does not hurt ourselves or others

Create space between the trigger and the response

It's brain science, not rocket science!
When schools are chaotic, we are reinforcing the neural pathways our students have for fight/flight/freeze.

By being safe, comforting, firm, caring, consistent, reliable adults, and creating safe and consistent environments, we are REWIRING a child’s nervous system.
Look for Changes in:

Stress and the Brain
Any educator who works directly with traumatized children and adolescents is vulnerable to the effects of trauma—referred to as
compassion fatigue
secondary traumatic stress
— being physically, mentally, or emotionally worn out, or feeling overwhelmed by students’ traumas.

(National Child Traumatic Stress Network)
"Traumatized children’s behavior can be perplexing. Prompted by internal states not fully understood by the children themselves and unobservable by teachers, traumatized children can be ambivalent, unpredictable, and demanding. But it is critical to underscore that traumatized children’s most challenging behavior often originates in immense feelings of vulnerability."
-Trauma Sensitive Schools: Helping Traumatized Children Learn

Me Moves
calms the low road, activates the high road
activates mirror neurons --> empathy
Work toward becoming Trauma-Informed Educators by:

-Gaining an expanded understanding of trauma and trauma's effects on the brain.

-Recognizing trauma's impact on learning and how trauma manifests in the classroom.

-Expanding toolbox of strategies for working with children who have experienced trauma.
"Resilience requires relationships... Despite the widespread belief that individual grit, extraordinary self-reliance, or some in-born, heroic strength of character can triumph over calamity, science now tells us that it is the reliable presence of at least one supportive relationship and multiple opportunities for developing effective coping skills that are essential building blocks for the capacity to do well in the face of significant adversity."
National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2015). Supportive Relationships and Active Skill-Building Strengthen the Foundations of Resilience, Working Paper No. 13, Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University www.developingchild.harvard.edu.
Fundamental Elements of Trauma
1. Powerlessness
2. Disconnection
3. Devaluing
4. Out of control
These are both triggers and the result of the traumatic state.
Healing is the
of encircling a person with value and empowerment, by engaging with them in their natural cycles of growth. We can support children by helping them gather resources from within themselves, their family, and their community.
-->Help them move from a trauma state to a change state.
Calm Classroom
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