Nearly half of U.S. children have experienced some form of trauma, whether it’s losing a parent, witnessing violence, living in extreme poverty, or experiencing another emotionally difficult event.1 Unfortunately, these traumatic experiences can lead to lifelong problems. That’s why many educational leaders are now recommending schools implement an administrative and teaching strategy designed to recognize and address the effects of trauma. The schools that adopt this strategy are known as trauma-informed schools.
A trauma-informed school is an educational institution that seeks to understand and mitigate the negative effects of trauma experienced by students. These schools typically make sure students receive the behavioral and mental health services the need. They also adjust disciplinary and other policies to elevate students’ sense of safety and support. Overall, the goal is to help students overcome the negative effects of trauma and reach educational success.
The reason schools embrace the trauma-informed approach is because the effects of childhood trauma can be severe and lasting. The negative effects can include:2
Trauma-informed schools don’t do just one or two things. They take a number of steps to help ensure children with trauma have a real opportunity to succeed. These steps often include:
Not all teachers or administrators know how negatively trauma can affect children. That’s why the first step for any trauma-informed school is to educate its staff on trauma and its effects.
Promoting Empathetic Understanding
Everyone responds to trauma a bit differently. Trauma-informed schools understand that trauma is individualized, with numerous potential causes and numerous potential consequences. And they understand that a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching students with trauma is unlikely to succeed. Instead, these schools embrace an empathetic approach, listening to each individual student and responding in whatever ways help that student overcome their trauma and reach educational goals.
Children who’ve been traumatized often fear the possibility of additional trauma. This can make them wary of new situations and people. Trauma-informed schools work to ease these worries by providing a learning environment with reasonable rules, consistent rules enforcement, and an attitude of hope and empowerment.
Building a Sense of Connectiveness
Trauma-informed schools endeavor to be more than a place to learn. They work to be a community where students feel a sense of connectedness. As research has shown, students who feel connected to their school are less likely to engage in risky behaviors and more likely to succeed academically.3 This can help counteract the negative effects of trauma.
Collaborating with the Wider Community
Teachers and administrators can’t do everything on their own. To more fully address the challenges posed by trauma, trauma-informed schools work closely with parents and community leaders to help ensure students who’ve experienced trauma are receiving the care and support they need.
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Helping students reach their potential can begin by earning an elementary education degree through an online bachelor’s program. It’s a great choice if you want to make a real difference.
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Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.