Recognizing Trauma and Strategies to Help Educators

Recognizing Trauma and Strategies to Help Educators


According to the 2017 National Survey of Children’s Health, at least 38% of children in every state will have at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE) before they turn 18. The Crisis Prevention Institute recently found that more than half of all adolescents have reported being exposed to violence or abuse of various kinds by age 16 and that more than two thirds of youth will experience a traumatic event that may develop into PTSD. It’s urgent that educators understand childhood trauma so they know how to teach students who have experienced ACEs.

Symptoms of trauma for children and adolescents may fall into four major categories:

  • Persistent state of fear, anxiety, or unease
  • Memory disorder
  • Emotional dysregulation
  • Avoidance of intimacy

Children who have experienced trauma may also develop of a mistrust of others, isolate themselves from other children and adults, and become hypersensitive to verbal cues and physical touch. A primary goal for educators, coaches, and community leaders should be to create a safe atmosphere where children will feel comfortable, form relationships with each other and adults, learn to thrive, and develop according to positive social norms and behaviors.

De-escalation Strategies for Educators, Coaches, Caregivers

De-escalation strategies are approaches to avoid escalations of conflicts or to decrease the intensity, extent, volume, or scope of violent reactions. These strategies are verbal, nonverbal, and behavioral. Examples include:

  • Providing a calmer space for students to take a few breaths away from all other stimuli
  • Providing one-on-one staff interaction and talk therapy
  • Offering specific resources to expel energy such as punching bags, ice or heat packs, fidget tools, and weighted blankets

Most important, when you’re in the middle of a behavioral escalation, or a child is demonstrating trauma-based behaviors, don’t try to lecture them on behavior. Instead, gently approach the student wherever they are at the moment. Get down to the student’s level and speak to them about their current behavior. While using positive reinforcement and providing the student with alternative choices, you avoid retraumatizing the child. Ask pertinent questions about their feelings and offer positive statements like, “You’re an important part of this classroom community, and we would like to see you succeed in class today.”

Positive statements like this help the student change their negative thoughts and behaviors to positive ones.

To learn more about trauma-informed care and strategies, request a demo here.


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