Trauma Informed Care

Scared kids do scary things. It is as simple as that. If we focus on soothing the fear, the rest will come in time. Trauma informed care is a model that helps us recognize that all behavior is communication. If a child is laughing and playing, in a state of regulation, we know that in that moment, they don't think they are about to die. This is important communication, and it is good for you, the teacher, to know. 

Once we begin to look at children through this lens, even challenging behavior also simply becomes communication. Fighting, stealing, tantrums, disassociation, property destruction - these are all just a child trying to tell you something. You just have to be willing to listen!

The part of the brain that is used most will become the strongest. So, if you have known nothing but war since the day you were born, the survival part of your brain has been in near constant use. It has become very strong; too strong. So, it will constantly be perceiving threats where there are none.

When your brain is in survival mode, there are no manners, there is no conscious choice. It is also worth noting that the part of your brain that is responsible for learning can not operate if the survival part of your brain is "driving." Traumatized children have a different response to stress than other children. Extreme stress causes short term memory loss and distorted thinking. This means that if you try to teach children new information while they are stressed, you are wasting your time. 

There is no safe space where trauma triggers can not enter.

You are a child at school and that plane flying above is just a plane, this time. There were many times that it wasn't. 

The child next to you has just taken your crayons. You are immediately brought back to countless days of scarcity and loss

A man's voice has just come too close to you and in that moment, you forget that he is safe and gentle.

How will these fears be communicated to the adults around you? Probably not with words.

Remember: Behavior serves a purpose. Tears serve a purpose. Fighting for your life serves a purpose. None of these  will ever "come out of nowhere."


What Is the Working Definition of Trauma?

The avenues for trauma are broad and can affect people in all walks of life. The National Center for Trauma-Informed Care gave this definition of trauma: Trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening and has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.


What Is the Working Definition of Trauma Informed Care?

Trauma Informed Care is an organizational structure and treatment framework that involves understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects of all types of trauma. Trauma Informed Care also emphasizes physical, psychological and emotional safety for both beneficiaries and actors, and helps survivors rebuild a sense of control and empowerment.

Becoming “trauma-informed” means recognizing that people often have many different types of trauma in their lives. People who have been traumatized need support and understanding from those around them. Often, trauma survivors can be re-traumatized by well-meaning providers. 

Understanding and acknowledging  the impact of trauma is an important first step of creating a supportive and compassionate community for children displaced by conflict and crisis.


How Can Care Be Trauma-Informed?

Trauma-informed care must be built into the fabric of organizational culture and recognized at all levels. School, art, play - these are all vehicles for the delivery of trauma-informed care. 

SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) lays out four assumptions in this type of trauma informed care:

    1    Members of a trauma-informed system know that trauma is widespread, but there is potential for recovery.
    2    Individuals can be taught to recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma.
    3    Policies, procedures, and practices should be set with the trauma in mind.
    4    A trauma-informed system should resist inflicting re-traumatization.

Instead of prescribing set policies, SAMHSA advocates that these six principles guide care:
    1    Safety
    1    Trustworthiness and Transparency
    2    Peer Support
    3    Collaboration and Mutuality
    4    Empowerment, Voice, and Choice
    5    Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues


Our Recommended Reading List

  • Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control Vol 1 (Forbes and Post)
  • Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control Vol 2 (Forbes)
  • Help for Billy (Forbes)
  • From Fear to Love (Post)
  • The Great Behavior Breakdown (Post)
  • The Body Keeps the Score (Bessel Van der Kolk)