Child trauma is more common than you think. In the US, it is estimated up to 25% of youths will have experienced a trauma before their 16th birthday. In the UK, this estimate is around 15.6%. Still significant statistics.
Common sources of trauma include child abuse and neglect; serious accidental injury; disasters and terrorism; experiencing or witnessing violence in neighborhoods, schools and homes; bullying. Pupils who survive multiple traumatic experiences or Adverse Childhood Experiences, can easily be misunderstood in schools, despite good intentions. Such children are at risk of developing Post Traumatic Stress and often underachieve, or at worst become excluded from the very place that could offer them an opportunity for "second chance learning" and for reaching their potential. These children do not respond well or consistently to behavioural modification techniques, nor are they able to thrive in a system largely created for those from a "good-enough" background.
It is recognised that not all children exposed to traumatic events will develop a traumatic stress reaction. Children who are supported by caring adults (parents, teachers, significant care-givers) who help the child talk about their experiences and provide resilience techniques can become resilient. More importantly, parents and teachers who care for themselves are better able to care for their children and students.
Following a child's exposure to a traumatic event, parents and teachers are likely to observe the following symptoms:
•Re-experiencing — constantly thinking about the event, replaying it over in their minds, nightmares. •Avoidance — consciously trying to avoid engagement, trying not to think about the event. •Negative Cognitions and Mood — blaming others or self, diminished interest in pleasurable activities, inability to remember key aspects of the event. •Arousal — being on edge, being on the lookout, constantly being worried.
We do not expect teachers to be therapists and do not advocate that. What we can offer is:
Training and training materials for your school
Interventions that can help teachers with their stress levels.
Help for teachers who want to learn what trauma and mental health-informed schools do and how they can save time, money, improve behaviour and learning, lower exclusions and reduce staff absence.
Teach about safeguarding for teachers and pupils
How to involve parents
We can also help develop a better understanding of the skills adults need when children ‘need to tell’ and ensure that key school staff are ‘ready to listen’ effectively and with confidence.
Lead Practitioners in the school can utilise Emotional Freedom Techniques and Mindfulness based strategies if required.