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Mental Health - Trauma

Creating Trauma-Sensitive Schools to Improve Learning

Professional educators know that many students face challenges in their personal lives that adversely affect their learning in school. Unfortunately, many children have been traumatized by directly or vicariously experiencing violence, homelessness, loss (or fear of loss) of loved ones, or other kinds of devastating experiences.

Trauma changes people. Just as a physical assault on the body can cause bodily impairment, psychological trauma can result in a mental injury that impacts such things as a child’s ability to regulate emotions, attend to classroom activities, and/or achieve normal developmental milestones. However, this does not mean that traumatized children and adolescents cannot grow up to be healthy and happy adults, despite the often substantial obstacles they face.

There are ways to make our schools more sensitive to these children’s needs. The school and the classroom can become a “sanctuary” for these children, a place to experience academic success and social acceptance. Through these changes, schools can support all children in the development of healthy coping strategies and resilience in facing future struggles.

Some school districts are using a Response to Intervention (RtI) model to successfully support students with a wide range of behavioral and emotional issues. Schools can build on these efforts by providing universal strategies (Tier 1), supplemental supports (Tier 2) and intensive interventions (Tier 3) that will emphasize children’s strengths and address the educational needs of students who have been affected by trauma.

Trauma-Sensitive Schools Learning Modules

The Department of Public Instruction is creating a new professional development initiative to help schools incorporate trauma-sensitive practices in collaboration with SaintA and Trauma Sensitive Education, LLC. Content will be delivered primarily through modules that each consist of on-line learning, associated readings, and implementation tools. These modules will be created over a three-year period.

PBIS framework

Below are links to a variety of resources to help schools support students affected by trauma. The information you find here can serve as a starting point in understanding the intersection of trauma and education.

For questions about this information, contact Elizabeth Cook (608) 266-1999