Teaching the traumatized child

“A great many students come to school with emotional and behavioral difficulties that pose serious barriers to their learning,” writes David Bornstein in the New York Times. More than 20 percent of Spokane elementary students had two or more “adverse childhood experiences,” such as homelessness, witnessing domestic violence or having a parent on drugs or in jail, according to a Washington State study.

Some schools are trying to help students deal with stress. Angelo Elementary School in Brockton, Massachusetts is training teachers and reorganizing classrooms.

“We created choices in the classroom for kids if they felt their emotions were starting to get the best of them,” (Principal Ryan) Powers said. “They could put on headphones, listen to some classical music, sit on a bean bag chair, take a break, go for a walk.”

Teachers started paying more attention to the way they spoke to children. They began the day by greeting every child — by name or a handshake or a touch on the shoulder. They made the first morning session to be about about community building. They made efforts to reduce the number of transitions and communicate clearly, so changes would be predictable.

Stress is very bad for learning. “When you come from a home that is very disorganized, sequence and cause and effect can be thrown off,” explained  Susan Cole, a former special education teacher who directs the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative. “This affects language development, memory and concentration.”

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  1. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Depends on the child, depends on the situation.

    Sometimes all the kid needs is a generally supportive school environment.

    Sometimes the kid needs the parents of his or her friends for support.

    Sometimes the kid needs a high school program that runs from 0530-2130, keeping him or her out of the house except for sleep.

    Sometimes the kid needs professional help.

    Sometimes the kid needs to be taken out of the home. Sometimes not.

    It depends. And it’s hard to know.

    REALLY hard.