Monday, 29 February 2016

Trauma and Learning

Today I attended an informative workshop on Trauma and Learning.

Students with trauma may have experienced refugee experience, residing out of home, have experienced neglect or abuse, illness/hospitalisation or severe cultural dislocation.

Recent research has shown that traumatic experiences in childhood can diminish concentration, memory, social skills, language development and academic ability at school.  What has also been discovered is that educators are misunderstanding the reasons underlying some children's difficulties with learning and this can profoundly hinder the student's learning.

Traumatised children can display behaviour that is profoundly misunderstood and the role of the educator in the lives of the traumatised student is crucial.  Research clearly shows that regardless of the adversity they face a child can develop and maintain a positive attachment to school, and gain an enthusiasm for learning.  This goes to show how important building trusting and caring relationships with all students.

Behaviours that a traumatised child can demonstrate are internal (behaviours and characteristics shown by students can be being withdrawn, numb, frozen, depressed, fear, perfectionism, shame or anxiety) and/or external, also referred to "acting-out" (behaviours and characteristics shown by students are reactivity, impulsivity, anxiety, aggression, shame, defiance or perfectionism.)
If we look behind the acting-out behaviour of traumatised students we see that many are suffering from deep, long-lasting pain and it is not that they won't behave like other children but they can't.
Recovery from trauma will occur best in the context of healing relationships therefore the role of educators in the lives of children by trauma can't be underestimated.
(Calmer Classrooms - A guide to working with traumatised children (Child Safety Commissioner Victoria 2007)

A student who has experienced trauma can react to a situation, an event or trigger and then this is followed by a behaviour whether it is internal and/or external which in turn provokes a reaction in others.  This then gets the student in a state of heightened arousal and stress as the reaction in others is perceived as an additional threat to them.  This is when we can't reason with the student at all.  It is vital to allow for a calm down time.
Forming secure and stable relationships with our students is crucial.  For our students who are traumatised is the difference between success or failure.

Let's have a look at the importance of attachment from the very beginning.
Attachment, the emotional bond formed between a child and its primary caretaker, profoundly influences the developing brain.  Failed attachment, whether caused by abuse, neglect or emotionally unavailability on the part of the caretaker, can negatively impact brain structure and function, causing developmental trauma.

Secure and stable relationships are the foundations for social and emotional health that lead to secure and stable relationships.

Look at this video below, Dr Edward Tronick demonstrated the reaction of baby when mum doesn't respond to the baby.   This is called The Still Face Experiment.

After watching this I wondered could control crying cause damage to a child?  What are your thoughts?

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