What are viable ways to ensure a safe environment for students with traumatic childhoods?
A bit of context
Students with trauma everywhere have been struggling with adapting to their academic environment due to the lack of proper structure in their classrooms. Study shows that “Roughly 26 percent of children in the United States witness or experience a trauma before the age of 4.” (Briggs-Gowan et al. 2010) Childhood trauma affects academic experience to various extents, yet most schools lack the necessary framework to support them through their learning. The current standard allows strangers to walk into the classroom unannounced, provides a clustered sitting arrangement, utilizes bright light, can be subject to sudden loud noises and has insufficient flexibility in its disciplinary system. Therefore, this can be triggering to traumatized children because it can mimic the negative experiences they have previously had. This is why we need to implement certain standards that will consider their needs, abilities and possibly sensitivities.
How Trauma Affects Kids At School:
If any of these symptoms are present, they may be suffering with trauma and should be ‘tested’ and treated as soon as possible. It’s important to also note that symptoms of ongoing trauma can actually mimic those of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
A main issue is that schools will normally use disciplinary systems (punishing, removing previous positive recognition, losing patience and sometimes even yelling) instead of offering support and trying to solve the issue with the child. This is why we should teach teachers about an appropriate way of approaching and learning how to understand children’s behavior. Trying to change the child’s behavior directly, instead of punishing them. Most times, inappropriate behavior had underlying causes that aren’t simple to understand or easily noticeable.
“Acknowledging and naming an emotion helps children move towards expressing it in a more appropriate way.”(ChildMind Institute, 2020)
Replace their classrooms lights to a more neutral tone: Having the option to have dimmed lights instead of bright fluorescent ones. The blue tone that a lot of classrooms have aren’t very welcoming and don’t bring comfort to the kids. If changing the bulbs isn’t accessible, teachers can try to only turn on a row of lights to make more natural light shine in.
Creating a comfortable corner in each classroom: Having a place in the room with a couch, cushions, stuffed animals and more is a key factor of a trauma informed environment. This is useful because many traumatized kids will come to school nervous and stressed, which is why having a cozy corner will give them some space to calm down before class begins or even in the middle of class if they really need it.
Better seating arrangements: Having flexible seating will allow each student to choose a seat where they will feel more comfortable, which will help them learn more efficiently. Some kids need to be doing something to focus so having yoga balls, wobble stools or even rocking chairs as an option for the students will help the class be more concentrated.
Now it’s time for you to take action! What policies would you put in place to help create a trauma informed environment at your school? Click on the button below and answer a few questions as form to reflect upon your new found knowledge!
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