Thursday, August 29, 2019

Trauma and the Brain

This is an interesting article I came across today called the Bear in the Classroom - Trauma Informed Children. 

I have been increasingly interested in the role of trauma on the brain specially in the early years as I look back over the past 30 years as an education and ask myself 'what has change in the early years to see such a paradigm shift in the mental health diagnosis's in children SO YOUNG ... when I was a new grad in a childcare centre of 100 children it was rare to have ONE child enrolled that presented with special needs of any kind. Today when you talk to educators over 2/3 of the children will present with special needs and of those a 1/3 will have some sort of diagnosis and the others will just be labelled as 'challenging behaviours'. So why are so many children today that labelled as autistic or ADHD or OCD and the list goes on and on of things that were virtually unheard of in the children we served back in the 80's and early 90's? What has changed? 

The more I read about childhood traumas and the impact on the brain the more I realize that a lot of behaviors we label as challenging or attribute to Autism spectrum or ADHD or defiance disorder is actually more likely if we delved more deeply into the behavior and life experience of the child linked back to trauma and a brain that lives in a constant state of fight flight or freeze because it sees a 'bear' in the room at every turn that is out to get them.

From another website I had been reading they stated the most common causes of childhood trauma include:
  • Accidents
  • Bullying/cyberbullying
  • Chaos or dysfunction in the house (such as domestic violence, parent with a mental illness, substance abuse or incarcerated)
  • Death of a loved one
  • Emotional abuse or neglect
  • Physical abuse or neglect
  • Separation from a parent or caregiver
  • Sexual abuse
  • Stress caused by poverty
  • Sudden and/or serious medical condition
  • Violence (at home, at school, or in the surrounding community)
  • War/terrorism
Reading the list of potential causes of trauma to the brain it totally makes sense to me how children today can be experiencing so much more 'mental health challenges than ever before when I look back on the average childhood of children from my generation compared to what the average childhood looks like today. 

Society in general has an up close and personal relationship with billions of people via social media! We get the news and stories and images of war and terrorism and fear and violence at every turn. 
Behaviors you might see from someone whose had a trauma overlap so many of the behaviors we attribute to things like ADHD and OCD and Autism spectrum:
  • Trouble forming relationships with teachers or peers
  • Poor self-regulation
  • Negative thinking
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Executive function issues
As an educator I totally want to learn more on how to better delve deeper into children's backgrounds and experiences outside the program to find the root of behaviors and to remember that  no good will come from trying to punish a child for a behavior born of survival. You are literally punishing an adaptation to extreme stress. All behavior is born of an unmet need and our role as educators is to investigate and determine what that need is so that we can than provide children with the tools and resources to advocate meeting that need. This is how we overcome those 'challenging behaviors' in our programs by helping children learn how to thrive ...
Here’s suggestions from the article on how you can help keep the bear out of your room –
  • Teach to the emotional age, not the chronological age. Meet the student where they are at in that moment in time.
  • Consider all extreme behavior within the context of survival to better understand ‘why he keeps doing that?’
  • Repetition and routine is important because with every positive experience the impact on the brain grows.
  • Traumatized children expect the worst and focus on the negative.  If you understand this, you will be better prepared for it.
  • Childhood neglect is the most damaging trauma.  The child must not have basic needs threatened in any way or survival will be all they think about.
  • At the point the child was abused, the brain was focused on survival not learning.  The development the child missed due to abuse will need extra attention.
  • Traumatized children will often score lower on IQ tests than their true ability.  Retest when their environment is helping them heal and watch the scores go up.
  • The goal in healing trauma is when the child becomes agitated to help them learn skills to reduce the agitation.  This repeated cycle is what most helps the child.
  • Promote play with traumatized children.  Play is very healing to the brain and the emotions.
  • Don’t give up hope!  The human brain is capable of healing in ways we do not yet understand.  It may be a long road to healing and the child may not get there while still in your classroom, but every situation makes a difference. (excerpts from Traumatic Experience and the Brain, A Handbook for Understanding and Treating Those Traumatized as Children.)
Have an amazing day

Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much
Be Totallyawake4-life 

No comments:

Post a Comment