Trauma in Schools: Adjusting Perspective and Practice to Support Students
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Exposure to trauma is prevalent and has been observed as an expanding health concern (Solomon & Heide, 2005). Students exposed to trauma face a range of adverse effects across physical, emotional, social, and cognitive domains, particularly when trauma is experienced early in life (American Institutes for Research, 2020; Ministry of Children and Family Development, 2017). For children with trauma histories, the classroom is an extremely demanding setting which supersedes their ability to manage (Tishelman, et al., 2010). Consequently, behavioural coping mechanisms may develop which are frustrating for school staff and hinder learning (Tishelman et al., 2010; Shonk & Cincchetti, 2001). Trauma-informed approaches recognize the prevalence of trauma and its impact on both short-term and long team well-being. The implementation of these practices requires a shift in pedagogy to support changes in perspective and practices which factor in the significance of trauma for many children (Hodas, 2006). In the literature review, the impact of childhood trauma is discussed. Next, the principles of trauma-informed schools and existing models are described. Then, behavioural challenges and their impact for students and learning are examined. Finally, considerations for classrooms, including strategies and implementation challenges, are explored. A proposal for a school staff professional development workshop will be discussed in the final part of this paper.