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Did you know that the rates of childhood trauma in America have spiked during the last decade? Children are experiencing greater levels of traumatic situations and it’s having a severe impact on their ability to function properly in the school environment. In many cases, it goes unrecognized as most teachers are not properly trained to be able to handle such situations.

Traditionally, children dealing with trauma are seen as unruly and display behavior that is unacceptable. However, recent reports by JAMA Pediatrics indicate that acting out, inability to concentrate, social problems are all possible indicators that a child is experiencing trauma. According to the National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention, 12.5% of 0-5 years old American kids have witnessed some form of a traumatic event: even worst, 24.1% of these kids had experienced the event again before they began kindergarten.

Children with difficult behavior can have a negative impact on other children in the classroom, and they may become a source of trauma to other students. Therefore, teachers and other school staff members need to take a trauma-sensitive approach in order to improve the school environment for themselves, the traumatized students, and the other students: thereby improving the overall learning experience.

Here are some simple tips that you can use to reach students with trauma:

Seek to Understand your Students Behavior

Children who have or are experiencing trauma often times display it in different ways. You may have a typically students that acts out aggressively, or a shy and reserved student that afraid to speak that can both be experience some level of trauma.  As an educator training yourself to be sensitive to recognize traumatized children will make a meaningful impact on you and in the life of the traumatized child.

Build Relationship with your students

Many children experiencing trauma have a low sense of worth and they may have difficulty trusting adults . Sometimes the most challenging students need to build their confidence before they can trust. As an educator, you can foster an environment of trust by creating an environment in which your students feel safe and accepted. You can do this by taking time to get to know your students, taking interests in their hobbies, and their life. It would not be an easy task, but as educators we need to reach our students by doing this it can change their life.

Key Triggers for Students Impacted by Trauma

  • Lack of person power or control

  • Unexpected change

  • Feeling threatened or attacked

  • Feeling vulnerable or frightened

  • Feeling shame

  • Positive feeling

Impact of Trauma on Learning

  • Affect dysregulation

  • Reduced cognitive capacity

  • Difficulties with memory

  • Language delays

  • Attachment difficulties

  • Poor relationship with peers

Reference Links

National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention, “Childhood Trauma and Its Effect on Healthy Development,” July 2012 (

JAMA Pediatrics, May 2013 (

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