Posted by Haley Hisle
on June 14, 2017 / Posted in Jubilee Academy
By: Kristi Thompson
Children from hard places, that is, children who have experienced early life traumas such as abuse, neglect, abandonment, orphanage care, chronic illness, or a stressful gestation, walk into the classroom carrying additional burdens.
While they may look like their peers, they often have what is known as a “hidden disability.” The way they respond to stressors, and the way they view the world, may seem confusing or frustrating to teachers who don’t understand the effects of trauma.
Gestation and the first three years of life are a critical time of brain development. When children experience early life trauma, stress hormones released by the body to protect from danger can become toxic. The stress hormones affect the students’ ability to regulate emotions, develop healthy relationships, manage difficulties, trust caregivers, believe in themselves and attend to academic tasks. Even when the student is removed from the trauma into a healthy environment, these stress reactions remain. What may seem like an inconsequential event (not understanding a math problem, a look of frustration on the teacher’s face, a social misunderstanding) can immediately trigger a fight, flight or freeze reaction.
More and more schools are learning about and responding to the research on best practices for teaching students who have been exposed to trauma. Trauma-informed teaching isn’t tied to a specific curriculum; rather, it’s a mindset shift, a paradoxical change in how to respond to a struggling student.
Trauma-informed teaching is first and foremost relational. “Relationships matter: the currency for systemic change was trust, and trust comes through forming healthy working relationships. People, not programs, change people,” writes Bruce Perry, child neuro-psychiatrist, in The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog. “The more healthy relationships a child has, the more likely he will be to recover from trauma and thrive. Relationships are the agents of change, and the most powerful therapy is human love.”
This isn’t the end of our Trauma Teaching blog! Be sure to check back tomorrow to learn the how behind the mindset shift when dealing with behavior of a child from a hard place.