One of the first steps to becoming a trauma-sensitive and trauma-informed school is training educators to better understand the impact of trauma on academic achievement and behavior.
72 percent of children and youth will experience at least one Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) before the age of 18.
As the number of ACE’s increase so does the risk for psychological, behavioral, and social-emotional problems. 75 to 80 percent of children in need of mental health services do not receive them. 70 to 80 percent of the children who do receive those services will access them in school.
A trauma-sensitive and trauma-informed school provide increased access to behavioral and mental health services, effective community collaboration, an increased feeling of physical, social, and emotional safety among students, and positive and culturally responsive discipline policies and practices that increase school connectedness.
For example, instead of confronting students with “What did you do wrong?” and providing a consequence, a trauma-informed approach is asking students, “Tell me what happened?”
Staff work with students to problem-solve and use the situation as an opportunity to teach prosocial skills. So, how does a school become trauma-sensitive and create the processes needed to help their students who’ve experienced trauma?
Here are six ways to become a trauma-informed school:
School psychologists, counselors, and social workers can be leaders in this initiative by providing increased mental health services. Data has clearly shown when school-employed mental health professionals are able to provide consultation to teachers and direct mental health services to students, there is an increase in academic achievement scores and a decrease in behavioral problems.
Thus, increasing access to mental health services in schools, providing trauma-sensitive training and supports for teachers, and implementing positive discipline approaches to enhance school connectedness can be powerful prevention and intervention tools for helping students to succeed.
By embracing a trauma-sensitive and informed approach, educators feel more confident in their teaching and students show increased academic and social-emotional achievement. Learn more about trauma-informed schools here.
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Melissa Reeves, Ph.D. is the past president of the National Association of School Psychologists. She is also a nationally certified school psychologist, licensed professional counselor, and licensed special education teacher. She is an adjunct instructor at Winthrop University and a school psychologist at a pre-K–12-grade school.