The prevalence of childhood trauma in America has been studied for many decades. While exact numbers can be hard to pin down, research studies and community surveys have found that as many as two-thirds of American children report experiencing a traumatic event by the age of 16. This can include physical abuse, neglect, poverty, domestic violence, community or school violence, medical trauma, auto accidents, acts of terrorism, war experiences, natural disasters, suicides and other traumatic losses.
Until recently the impact of these experiences on students’ ability to learn and function in school has been poorly understood. That is beginning to change. Research is now providing a clear link between childhood trauma and a wide variety of challenges that have impacted our education system. Fortunately, it is also providing evidence of how teachers and other educators can make a difference.
Education Northwest has published a free resource, “A Practitioner’s Guide to Educating Traumatized Children,” that provides insights drawn from the latest research, as well as a set of trauma-informed classroom practices for educators.
“Without even knowing it, teachers have dealt with trauma’s impacts for generations,” says author Basha Krasnoff. “Research strongly indicates that educators can moderate the effects of trauma by forging strong relationships with traumatized children and providing a safe and supportive learning environment.”
Teachers and other mentors can help traumatized children reestablish normal functioning of their bodies’ and brains’ stress-response systems through intense and ongoing positive social interactions.
“Succeeding in school is an accomplishment that carries more weight for traumatized children,” Krasnoff says, “because for them, school either confirms that the world is filled with unresponsive threatening adults and peers, or it provides an opportunity to learn that some places are safe, stimulating and even fun.”