It is widely understood that a child’s reaction to adverse childhood experiences, including traumatic events, disrupts brain development and can lead to the adoption of negative and/or risky behaviors which adversely affect academic and overall success in school. Children who have experienced adverse childhood experiences including trauma may:
- Have difficulty with attention
- Be hypervigilant – highly or abnormally sensitive to the environment and people around them
- Easily triggered to become aggressive
- Disrespectful to teachers and other adults
- Have difficulty responding to social cues
- Withdraw from social situations or bully others
Students and staff can be negatively impacted by a many types of trauma in their lives. Trauma negatively affects individuals, families and communities (including schools) as well as interferes with developing and maintaining healthy relationships.
Pace School’s organizational and treatment/instructional framework involves understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects of all types of trauma.
Trauma informed classroom practices include:
- Beginning each school day with a Community Meeting where students and staff “check in” with each other, describe how they are feeling and identify how they can support one another if needed or requested. Younger students and students with Autism and functional language impairment use adapted materials to put words to their feelings and communicate with people who can help. This process teaches students to rely on others and build healthy relationships.
- Helping students use strategies from their individualized “Safety Plan” if dysregulated or highly emotional. Students are taught to apply their Safety Plan to identify an acceptable way to manage intense emotion. The Safety Plan strategies are developed individually with each student, and practiced to ensure they are available to the student when needed.
- Building upon students’ interests and skills when planning instruction or developing treatment interventions
- Establishing and maintaining predictable routines
- Establishing and communicating clear, consistent expectations
Pace staff are trained to:
- Recognize the negative effects of trauma
- Emphasize physical, psychological and emotional safety
- Recognize and help students break the cycle of reenactment of their traumatic experiences
Students are trained in neuroplasticity to understand how their brain grows and develops and to realize that new neuropathways (ways of thinking and behavioral patterns) can be developed with effort, strategy and time.
Mental Health Therapists and Social Workers are available to provide individualized and specific evidence-based trauma treatment.
Pace School’s trauma-informed culture means being informed about and sensitive to trauma and providing a safe, stable, and understanding environment for students and staff.