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Trauma-Informed pedagogy in Schools

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

Trauma-informed pedagogy in schools, what is trauma-informed pedagogy? how does it relate to teaching children? how can childhood trauma be addressed and help prevent future traumatic events?

Understanding Trauma

Trauma is not an event in itself: it is a response to one or more overwhelming distressful event that adversely impact the capacity to adapt to it. Traumatic events are reality of life, however, the ability to cope and be resilient in the face of trauma can be developed. The manner in which traumatic events are addressed and perceived can assist in putting a halt to further trauma.

Additionally, from a biological standpoint, researchers propose childhood trauma has an impact on regulation of hormones and brain development [1]. Children and adolescents who faced adverse childhood trauma suffer in psychological, biological and societal front[2]. It is imperative to consider an approach to foster healthy development in children and adolescents and be responsible towards ones who have faced trauma and are carrying the burden of trauma. The grave truth of existence of trauma inflicting events are vast and mostly go unnoticed. Adverse Childhood Experiences[3] (ACE)[4] can lead to trauma especially events such as repeated humiliation at home or school, beating, pushing or physical violence, sexual or physical or emotional abuse, feeling of neglect or unwanted, lack of food, clothing or someone to protect (Extreme poverty and neglect), divorced or separate parents, witnessing physical violence or abuse, living with person with alcohol dependency, or living with a parents with history of server mental illness (clinically diagnosed) or family member committing suicide and/or family member going to prison. Moreover, Pandemic is further affecting children as many are losing their parents and are vulnerable, difficulty in mapping survival after financial crunch, abandonment, violence at home, poverty and lack of resources.

What can be done in response to Trauma?

The answer is: Trauma-informed Care (TIC): Developing space for psychical, emotional and physical safety. TIC is a facilitate framework which provides an acknowledgement of trauma and caters to the psychological, emotional and physical safety of the child affected by trauma. Especially in India since most Western and European countries have elaborated and developed trauma-based care, this area of child care is still at a nascent stage in India and most South Asian countries. It is, therefore, imperative to initiate discussions, dialogues and debates around this subject that will sensitize the stakeholders[5] and strengthen their knowledge and competencies.

“Incorporating trauma-informed approaches into service delivery is an essential component to developing programs that accurately address the needs of youth and their families.”[6] As highlighted, incorporating trauma-informed approach in delivery will accurately address the trauma.

We are focusing on the need for schools and teachers to adopt the Trauma-informed approach. Schools represent an advantageous system for prevention and early intervention across realm related to child physical, emotional and mental success. Children from diverse sections and groups come to school and some are at a higher risk of trauma. Adoption of Trauma-informed pedagogy in schools will helps in reduction in re-traumatisation of the trauma sufferer. At its core, trauma-informed pedagogy enables teachers to recognize that trauma manifests itself in unexpected way and helps establish safe spaces. The pandemic has familiarized children of varying ages to experiences they may have never been exposed to. Given the unprecedented amount of trauma this past year, there is an urgent need for classrooms to become spaces that make students feel safe and comfortable.

In Trauma-Informed Schools[7], educators realize the impact of adverse childhood experiences on neurobiological development and attachment. They recognize the impact trauma has on learning and behavior. Schools respond by building resilience and avoiding re-traumatization and create a culture that prioritizes: safety – ensuring physical and emotional safety, trustworthiness – being dependable, reliable, and authentic; delivering results, choice – prioritizing choice, choices and options for people who have had control taken away, make a big difference, collaboration – maximizing collaboration and empowerment – prioritizing voice, empowerment and skill-building.

I resonate with Trauma-Informed pedagogy because I work with children living in orphanage, children who have lost their parents and those who can’t afford basic necessities. When these children used to show up in schools, they would be told to wear uniform properly and punished for various reasons that they had no control over. In the current scenario, online classes are a reality for majority of children and many children living in orphanage are sharing their phones or laptops, at times they enter the online class late or face internet issue but no one understands and they are humiliated in front of the class. Trauma-informed pedagogy will help these children recognize the trauma and approach children in ways which won’t be re-traumatizing.

Trauma-Informed Care be enough for children?

Trauma-informed pedagogy is a necessity and preventive step. Along with Trauma-informed pedagogy, there is need to add social-emotional learning (SEL) in classrooms. Teachers need to be trained to facilitate classes and map their own emotions. Developing a language for talking about emotions and being empathetic towards others. Fostering new relationships and decision making. SEL will make children ready to deal with trauma and develop skills to cope with it. SEL leads to better communication, participation in discussion, feeling safe and vulnerable and ability to understand and self-better. Trauma affects aspects such as harbouring relationships, trust and blaming self and so on. SEL will assist all the children in becoming a community with value such as respect, togetherness, mutual assistance and safe space.

Together Trauma-informed pedagogy along with Social emotional learning can be beneficial in preparing children and providing them safe spaces, especially in the pandemic it is imperative to implement these.

References: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] : Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s concept of trauma and guidance for a trauma-informed approach & s

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