Trauma In Educational Settings

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Some traumas which children and young people experience are openly known within an education setting, such as a death, an accident, or a life-threatening illness of a family member. This provides information for staff to know that a young person’s behaviours may change. Typically, this change will be short term, for maybe a few weeks or a few months. Read more at Understanding Trauma page

For ease, children and young people have been termed YP.

 

Trauma Through Abuse

Disclosure of abuse is most frequently reported within an education setting, whereby the young person has a good relationship with a staff member and feels safe to share their experience of the trauma. This provides staff with an understanding of why a young person’s behaviours have changed. Within educational settings not all staff are privy to this information and therefore do not have this understanding and may misinterpret these changes in behaviour as ‘just bad behaviour’. It is essential to protect and respect a YP’s privacy, however, whenever possible, sharing sufficient information to school staff who have direct contact with a YP is helpful so staff can understand the difficulties they may be going through and make appropriate adjustments.

 

 

In many cases, a disclosure has not yet happened.

 

Today, more educational settings are ‘trauma informed’ and provide training for staff. This page aims to provide all staff in educational settings support in being able to recognise trauma presentations and how you can provide trauma informed support. It is important to acknowledge that this page is directed to all members of staff that can have relational interactions with a traumatised young person within an educational setting, from the teaching staff, the people in the canteen, to the bus driver.

 

How can trauma impact on a YP’s academic engagement?

• School absence

• Increase in a student being put into inclusion or to then be excluded

• Lower attainment academically

 

Indicators you may observe in the classroom:

Some of these presentations will make sense to you when you are aware of a YP’s circumstances.

When you are not aware, and the trauma has not been shared, this list of presentations will enable you to consider what might be going on for a YP and not assume bad behaviour– always be curious.

Behaviour is a form of communication!

 

Children and Young People in Care

YP who are in the care of the local authority are vulnerable and can present with complex trauma. They are likely to have experienced trauma within their family home, such as neglect, domestic abuse, physical, emotional or sexual abuse. In addition, they will have experienced the trauma of being displaced from their family home and into the care of a foster family or a foster home.

This trauma can then be perpetuated through contact arrangements with family members. This can occur in two ways. Firstly, that that the YP is again removed from their family after the contact arrangement; the fear and grief are then continually relived. Secondly, for a YP whose experience of the family member is destructive, the contact arrangement can be forced upon them which is re-traumatising for the YP.

 

How to ‘be’ when you support a traumatised YP?

 

   Provide eye contact, be in the moment and focus on the YP who will know if you are not truly listening.    It is important that you remain calm and emotionally regulated, this then enables the YP to experience a safe caring contained relationship. We can model emotional regulation/stability for YP.     Body language is communication, non-verbal cues indicate a state of emotional regulation or dysregulation, a sense of calmness or irritability. A YP needs to be emotionally regulated before they can engage on a cognitive level. 

 

 Traumatised YP will fluctuate between these polarised positions!

 

Dr. Dan Siegel describes a zone from which we fluctuate dependent on our levels of stress. He describes this as the 'window of tolerance' which identifies the zones in which we can function and deal with day-to-day stress or impair our ability to function. Your understanding of this movement will promote your ability to notice and encourage re-regulation. This process will create a safe caring relationship between you. YP who experience this then recognise that you are a safe base, you are trustworthy.

Understanding when it is an optimum time to approach a traumatised YP is essential.

The videos below will support your awareness of how a traumatised YP fluctuates within the differing zones of tolerance:

 

Window of Tolerance

Dr Dan Siegel Window of Tolerance

Understanding Trauma and Stress Responses

Many of you are already aware of each human’s response to stress or threat to life:

 

Fight   Flight   Freeze

 

It is helpful for those of you working within education to understand how someone who has been traumatised can be triggered prompting an involuntary response, which is what you witness in your YP.

For those of you who are not aware of F/F/F, or for those of you who would like a recap, please watch this video

 

The Fight Flight Freeze Response (Video by Braive.com)

YP can biologically regress when they move into a stress response, a YP maybe 15 years old but regress to a younger age such as 7 years old. Their behaviours and voice can shift to the age of when the trauma happened.

Be calm and compassionate and with a warm voice tell them that you are there and that you are keeping them safe.

 

Watch this video to help you communicate with language which will support you to calm an anxious C/YP in times when they are not feeling emotionally of physically regulated:

 

 

Identify Triggers

Our five senses are triggers to a YP re-experiencing the trauma which in turn may cause emotional and behavioural responses. This can be when a YP becomes emotionally dysregulated and unable to manage their emotions and therefore their responses.

 

What a child see’s, hears, smells, tastes, or touches are potential triggers, examples:

 SeeThe YP may see a person who resembles a person involved in the trauma    HearA song may remind the YP of the trauma, or a noise inside or outside of the home, a car horn, or a siren for instance    SmellA smell associated with the trauma will create a reminder, such as the smell of smoke    TasteThe breakfast cereal eaten before the trauma could be a trigger    TouchThe feel of a texture could remind them of being in the incident, the feel of sand, grass or even the fur on a pet

 

From being triggered and then shifting into a stress response, they are no longer working in their cognitive/rational brain and therefore will not be able to make choices or decisions and will not respond to logic or argument.

Their responses are driven by F/F/F, these are the times when fear becomes a fight response, or for the YP to run away, or to zone out.

 

A YP has little control over these triggers and responses!

 

You can support a YP through these times by using strategies to re-regulate the YP.

     

 

After an episode of being in a stress response, it can take several hours for the YP to be fully regulated.

They may look regulated, but their bodies have just survived the impact of a physical and psychological attack, it is typical for YP to feel tired.

This is the effect of having adrenalin pumping through their bodies.

Strategies for supporting a YP who has been triggered need to put in place.

As part of a care plan, there must be an agreement between the YP and you in what can be put in place, such as letting them leave the room and go to an agreed safe place.

 

 

Emotional Literacy

Supporting YP express their difficult feelings promotes emotional regulation

‘I feel this because…..’

Emotional regulation and re-grounding techniques are summarised on the YP’s page, follow the link ……

 

Relationships Heal

There are components to a healing process which your presence can facilitate. YP need to experience trust, honesty, and compassion.

Empathy:

Is an ability for you to understand sensitively and accurately the YP’s feelings and experience.

Unconditional Positive Regard:

For you to be genuine in your care for the YP, to accept the YP as they are.

Congruence / Being Genuine:

To be authentic and real. YP who are traumatised grow and develop when experiencing a person who is honest and real.

In turn, their own authenticity will emerge in expressing their trauma and the impact of their trauma.

 

“It’s the relationship that heals,”

Irvin Yalom (1989)

Predictability, Consistency, and Containment

Boundaries and Expectations

Whilst you have an awareness of the YP’s trauma experience and their distress, this does not excuse a breach in boundaries and expectations within the educational setting.

This can be discussed within the care plan which is discussed later.

 

For some YP misbehaving is a way of having control when they feel they have no control over anything else.

Continue consistent expectations.

A traumatised YP may zone out/dissociate and, in that moment in time, is unable to learn.

They are no longer present and are unable to cognitively engage.

Agree for work to be caught up.

Traumatised YP who have experienced domestic abuse may try to evoke anger in you as this is their normal.

Remain calm and regulated.

 

Create a Plan

Organise a collaborative meeting with the YP and their parent/carer, create a plan to ensure their safety and that of the other YP in the class.

The following are things to consider:

 

An agreementshould the YP zone out/dissociate   If the YP is feeling overwhelmed, to be able to leave class and go to a safe place/person   If lunch time is too difficult, consider what alternatives can be put in place   Where theyfeel unsafe in the classroom, being near the door enables them to feel that it is easy to leave the room   Avoiding the busy movement as YP transitions from classroom to another   Avoid thenoiseof break timeif this is atrigger   Respectingpersonalspace   Having a stress ball or fidget toy which eases stress and provides emotional regulation   To undressforPE inprivate   Agree to whathelps the YPregulate   To catch up with work at home if they were unable to access learning in class   If the YP isaccessing school counselling, afford them time after their session to re-ground. Going straight back into academic work may prove toodifficult

 

 

When Should a Referral for Additional Support be Implemented?

After four weeks, if the presentations are not reducing, a referral for emotional and psychological support is advised:

A referral to a youth counselling agency

A CAMHS referral

An appointment with the GP

 

Supporting Children with Anxiety:

Self-care for Staff

Supporting a traumatised young person can be emotionally difficult.

It is important that you as the staff member recognise the signs of how by experiencing a traumatised young person and hearing their story means you have been indirectly exposed to the trauma which can leave you feeling emotionally overwhelmed.

To expand on this, please link to the ‘professionals page’.

 

This video will help you understand the impact of being exposed to other people’s trauma.

 

Being unaware or not attending to the impact of secondary trauma can in turn lead to you gradually feeling physically and mentally exhausted, feeling that you have nothing left to give.

 

Resources for teachers of Primary aged children

https://www.littleparachutes.com/picture-books-library/

 

References:

Yalom, I. D (1991). Love’s executioner and other tales of psychotherapy. London: Penguin group.

Company No: 11080543.

Registered Charity No. 1189120.

Registered Address: 60 Sutton Street,

Flore, NN7 4LE.

T: 07495 539 611 E: jane@crysalys.org

COOKIES & PRIVACY

Facebook link for The Crysalys Foundation

Tackling Trauma

   Provide eye contact, be in the moment and focus on the YP who will know if you are not truly listening.    It is important that you remain calm and emotionally regulated, this then enables the YP to experience a safe caring contained relationship. We can model emotional regulation/stability for YP.     Body language is communication, non-verbal cues indicate a state of emotional regulation or dysregulation, a sense of calmness or irritability. A YP needs to be emotionally regulated before they can engage on a cognitive level. 

FightFlightFreeze

 

 

Identify Triggers

Our five senses are triggers to a YP re-experiencing the trauma which in turn may cause emotional and behavioural responses. This can be when a YP becomes emotionally dysregulated and unable to manage their emotions and therefore their responses.

 

What a child see’s, hears, smells, tastes, or touches are potential triggers, examples:

 SeeThe YP may see a person who resembles a person involved in the trauma    HearA song may remind the YP of the trauma, or a noise inside or outside of the home, a car horn, or a siren for instance    SmellA smell associated with the trauma will create a reminder, such as the smell of smoke    TasteThe breakfast cereal eaten before the trauma could be a trigger    TouchThe feel of a texture could remind them of being in the incident, the feel of sand, grass or even the fur on a pet

 

From being triggered and then shifting into a stress response, they are no longer working in their cognitive/rational brain and therefore will not be able to make choices or decisions and will not respond to logic or argument.

Their responses are driven by F/F/F, these are the times when fear becomes a fight response, or for the YP to run away, or to zone out.

 

A YP has little control over these triggers and responses!

 

You can support a YP through these times by using strategies to re-regulate the YP.

     

 

After an episode of being in a stress response, it can take several hours for the YP to be fully regulated.

They may look regulated, but their bodies have just survived the impact of a physical and psychological attack, it is typical for YP to feel tired.

This is the effect of having adrenalin pumping through their bodies.

Strategies for supporting a YP who has been triggered need to put in place.

As part of a care plan, there must be an agreement between the YP and you in what can be put in place, such as letting them leave the room and go to an agreed safe place.

 

 

Emotional Literacy

Supporting YP express their difficult feelings promotes emotional regulation

‘I feel this because…..’

Emotional regulation and re-grounding techniques are summarised on the YP’s page, follow the link ……

 

Relationships Heal

There are components to a healing process which your presence can facilitate. YP need to experience trust, honesty, and compassion.

Empathy:

Is an ability for you to understand sensitively and accurately the YP’s feelings and experience.

Unconditional Positive Regard:

For you to be genuine in your care for the YP, to accept the YP as they are.

Congruence / Being Genuine:

To be authentic and real. YP who are traumatised grow and develop when experiencing a person who is honest and real.

In turn, their own authenticity will emerge in expressing their trauma and the impact of their trauma.

 

“It’s the relationship that heals,”

Irvin Yalom (1989)

Boundaries and Expectations

Whilst you have an awareness of the YP’s trauma experience and their distress, this does not excuse a breach in boundaries and expectations within the educational setting.

This can be discussed within the care plan which is discussed later.

 

For some YP misbehaving is a way of having control when they feel they have no control over anything else.

Continue consistent expectations.

A traumatised YP may zone out/dissociate and, in that moment in time, is unable to learn.

They are no longer present and are unable to cognitively engage.

Agree for work to be caught up.

Traumatised YP who have experienced domestic abuse may try to evoke anger in you as this is their normal.

Remain calm and regulated.

 

Create a Plan

Organise a collaborative meeting with the YP and their parent/carer, create a plan to ensure their safety and that of the other YP in the class.

The following are things to consider:

 

An agreementshould the YP zone out/dissociate   If the YP is feeling overwhelmed, to be able to leave class and go to a safe place/person   If lunch time is too difficult, consider what alternatives can be put in place   Where theyfeel unsafe in the classroom, being near the door enables them to feel that it is easy to leave the room   Avoiding the busy movement as YP transitions from classroom to another   Avoid thenoiseof break timeif this is atrigger   Respectingpersonalspace   Having a stress ball or fidget toy which eases stress and provides emotional regulation   To undressforPE inprivate   Agree to whathelps the YPregulate   To catch up with work at home if they were unable to access learning in class   If the YP isaccessing school counselling, afford them time after their session to re-ground. Going straight back into academic work may prove toodifficult

 

 

When Should a Referral for Additional Support be Implemented?

After four weeks, if the presentations are not reducing, a referral for emotional and psychological support is advised:

A referral to a youth counselling agency

A CAMHS referral

An appointment with the GP

 

Supporting Children with Anxiety:

FightFlightFreeze