Is Trauma Affecting Learning In American Schools?

“CHILDREN CAN’T CHECK THEIR TRAUMA AT THE SCHOOL’S DOOR” SHARIF EL MEKKI

Students across our country experience unrelenting trauma. These experiences often go unspoken and untreated.

Researchers determined that “ACEs—adverse childhood experiences harm young people’s developing brains so profoundly that the effects show up decades later, and they cause most chronic diseases, and mental illness, and furthermore they are at the root of most violence.”

Researchers found 13% of adults in Pennsylvania have an ACEs score of 4 or higher. And 30-45% of adults nationwide reported an ACEs score of 4 or higher.

Trauma doesn’t turn off because the school bell rang. People talk about the importance of educating “the whole child.” This holistic approach includes art, music, social, emotional learning, computer science, etc. But what we fail to realize is that the whole child extends beyond school curriculum and requires support for the traumatic experiences that many of our students encounter daily.

Educators are now becoming aware of the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder on the brains and well-being of children. Although, our collective actions haven’t kept pace with the research. We have a better understanding of the PTSD of soldiers, and many child advocates say that there is no “post” -traumatic for our youth. The ‘P’ in “post-traumatic” for our youth often stands for “persistent trauma.” Students deal with a constant barrage of decisions that adults make that perpetuate the trauma: racist redlining, deliberate under-funding of schools, and more.

Those facing persistent trauma, have difficulty building trust and maintaining healthy relationships. It is a barrier to learning. Schools must make decisions about how to support students. Parents and the community look to schools to provide the space and time to help students cope and thrive beyond the trauma they’ve experienced. Although, it is challenging to help students evolve beyond their persistent trauma. Strong school relationships, help kids cope and feel whole.

“CARING FOR MYSELF IS NOT SELF-INDULGENCE, IT IS SELF-PRESERVATION, AND THAT IS AN ACT OF POLITICAL WARFARE.” Audre Lorde

When adults don’t practice self-care, they make matters worse. Children need stable, level-headed caregivers. Adults need to help students learn self-care. The road to liberation is long and arduous. Self-care must be a part of our students’ and those who serve them daily.

Angela Davis said, “Self-care has to be incorporated in all of our efforts. And this is something new.”

This is what we need to prepare our students for. Not only do they face trauma, but they will also deal with racism, sexism, and a whole lot of other “isms” of oppression that are traumatic. Our students need to be prepared to handle the oppression, while they help dismantle it.

 

Adult decisions can perpetuate the trauma students experience.

Trauma-informed schools have ongoing professional development and reflection. “We make it a whole school project with every adult participating in building knowledge, increasing self-care, and thinking about how to support, rather than punish students when they are struggling. We know our students are bright and capable and we must hold them to the highest standards; we know they can achieve, and we support them in making decisions that will set them up for success.” Schools must also continue growing, being more reflective, and solutions-oriented as we help our youth and community.

Schools across the country are working hard to ensure students feel whole, despite what they have been exposed to and experience. We also must ensure that our schools don’t contribute to students’ experiences of persistent trauma.

Heddy Keith, author of Through It All: A Memoir of Love and Loss, The Men I Chose to Love and Lessons Learned

Nothing Ever Goes Away

Nothing Ever Goes Away

Heddy Keith M.Ed., CH. CI

“Nothing Ever Goes Away Until It Teaches Us What We Need To Know” Pema Chodron

We can’t deny trauma, we can’t hide from it, we can’t refuse to face it.  It’s always there underneath the surface stored in our subconscious minds. Like weeds, we must pull them up from the root.

Some people won’t look at their problem; instead, they sweep it under the rug where it festers and becomes a lump that trips them. Because we don’t see it doesn’t mean that it’s not there. That experience makes automatic decisions based on past experiences.

Unless we commit to take some action or our issue will keep turning up, oftentimes more serious and difficult until we address it. We’ll have the same challenges until action is taken.

Start by:

  • Meditating for 20 minutes helps to relax and calm your mind and body.
  • Writing for 20 minutes releases the emotional pain and increases the immune system.
  • Call a trusted professional to discuss where you can begin your healing journey.
    • Take a walk for 20-30 minutes.
    • Seek the right help. Read a self-help book. Take a long bath.

Just begin the healing process. You’ll feel great. Every fiber of your being will shift, and your life will change.

Writing one’s feelings gradually eases emotional trauma. Writing therapeutically can take place individually or in a group and can be administered in person. Expressive writing has the potential to provide a ‘boost’ to the immune system, perhaps explaining the reduction in physician visits. One could argue that talk and writing differ in relative cerebral dominance. If language is more related to the right hemisphere, then writing may be more related to the left hemisphere. If this is the case, then writing might use or even stimulate parts of the brain that are not stimulated by talking.

Julie Gray, founder of Stories Without Borders notes that “People who have experienced trauma in their lives, whether or not they consider themselves writers, can benefit from creating narratives out of their stories. It is helpful to write it down, in other words, in safety, and in non-judgment. Trauma can be quite isolating. Those who have suffered need to understand how they feel and try to communicate that to others.”

“The effects of unresolved trauma can be devastating. It can affect our habits and outlook on life, leading to addictions and poor decision-making. It can take a toll on our family life and interpersonal relationships. It can trigger real physical pain, symptoms, and disease. It can lead to a range of self-destructive behaviors.” Peter A. Levine

Childhood Trauma Affects Adults Later in Life

By Heddy Keith M. Ed, CH, CI

Trauma is an experience that produces psychological injury or emotional pain. Traumatic experiences often occur during childhood. Both positive and negative experiences have a tremendous impact on future violence, victimization, perpetration, and lifelong health outcomes. These early experiences are important public issues.

Risky behaviors are linked to early traumatic experiences, such as chronic health conditions, low potential, and premature death in adults. Much of the research in this area is referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). As the number of ACEs increases so does the risk for these outcomes. Research indicates that victims of one assault are most likely to have other assaults. People who have been violent in one context are likely to be violent in another.

With these different forms comes sharing common consequences that have effects across the lifespan such as mental, emotional, physical or social problems. They may contribute to chronic health problems such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, lung disease, or diabetes. These children share familiar risks and protective factors

A risk factor is a characteristic that increases the likelihood of a person becoming a victim or perpetrator, it could be early aggressive behavior, lack of parental supervision, academic problems, undiagnosed mental health issues, peer substance use, drug availability, poverty, peer rejection, and child abuse or neglect.  The presence of a risk factor does not mean a person will always experience violence. Victims are never responsible for the harm inflicted upon them.

A protective factor is a characteristic which decreases the probability of a person becoming a victim or perpetrator, such as parental resilience, social connections, the social emotional competence of the children, as well as good parenting and child development skills, It provides a buffer against the risk.

Maltreatment of children includes all types of abuse and neglect of a child under the age of 18 by a parent, caregiver, or another person in a custodial role. There are five types of trauma:

 

  1. Physical
  2. Verbal
  3. Sexual
  4. Physical neglect
  5. Emotional neglect

An estimated 1 in 4 children has some form of child abuse or neglect in his or her lifetime. In 2015 about 1,670 children died nationwide from abuse or neglect. The total lifetime costs are estimated at $124 billion a year.

Today’s Youth is always in hyperarousal. Post and Present Trauma is ongoing chronic stress. “Hurt, people, hurt people.”

Anyone who has experienced, witnessed, read about, participated in, or heard about a tragic event on the radio, television, magazines, newspapers, or on social media has been traumatized.

A Harvard study found that with repeated trauma the hippocampus gets overloaded–fight or flight response in the brain begin to generalize. Youth are overloaded with stress hormones. Many modern-day teenagers:

  • Are always in fight or flight mode
  • Have trouble learning
  • Don’t trust adults.
  • Have anxiety can’t sleep.
  • Have trouble handling emotions.
  • Have stomach aches or headaches.
  • Have self-destructive behavior.
  • Are at risk of becoming victims or perpetrators and or turning to drugs and alcohol.

Trauma affects children. Some learn to suppress and protect themselves, by pretending it never happened. The mind suppresses it to survive the pain. The brain knows how to protect us. The child functions as usual. Memories start to come out gradually. There will come a day when the child or adult gets flashbacks or dreams. The brain says it’s time to deal with this; you’re ready.

The mind says, “I’m not going to let you deal with this trauma, but you will remember the smell, and you won’t like it.” The subconscious mind stores and records millions of bits of information.

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” Pema Chodron

Classroom teachers see these behaviors every day in disruptive students, not knowing why they are behaving in such a way. Disruptive students not only shut down their learning process, but they also become an obstacle to other students who want to learn. Traumatized children suffering from multiple traumas need special attention.To Love and Lesso

Heddykeith, author of Through it All: A Memoir of Love and Loss, The Men I Chose To Love and Lessons Learned