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What is Trauma-Informed Practice?

Trauma Informed Return to School

What is Trauma-Informed Practice?

Trauma-Informed Practice is a way for schools to allow learning to occur by supporting the brain-based skill deficits that occur when children and youth have experienced trauma.  When they experience ongoing stress, their brains can’t take in and later recall information; their executive functioning skills are compromised. Trauma impacted children, and youth have difficulty managing and expressing emotions, understanding causes and effects, and the signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Is it important for everyone to be trauma-informed?

If educators and other staff understand that certain behaviors are related to traumatic experiences they can shift the school environment and adjust classroom practices to respond effectively. With some simple strategies, teachers, education assistants, counselors, and other school staff can support students in creating environments where they can learn.

Is it important for students to be aware of Trauma Informed Practice?

It is helpful for students to be aware of how anxiety and trauma affect their well-being and understand that anxiety is normal and helpful in some situations. Fight, flight or freeze is the physiological response to stress or danger and can be uncomfortable when they don’t know it is happening. If students can sense when they’re escalating in their behavior or feelings, they can self-regulate and use coping strategies that work for them.

What are some symptoms of trauma educators might see upon return to school in light of the COVD-19 pandemic and physical distancing guidelines?

Some symptoms of trauma educators might see upon the students’ return to school include heightened anxiety, difficulty concentrating, poor memory, and intense emotions. Organizing, planning, starting and finishing tasks, understanding different points of view can also be difficult for students who have experienced trauma.

What can you do to support students’ return to school?

It is helpful to understand what type of trauma students may have been exposed to while physical distancing. Educators can support the students’ return to school by identifying signs of trauma, building relationships, and restoring school and classroom activities with necessary modifications. Trauma-informed practice will include teaching students how to be calm by modeling it and building regulating activities (e.g. deep breathing while hand washing or while others are completing the screening tool) into classroom routines. Remember that behavior is likely a result of hyper-arousal and requires a thoughtful and supportive response.


For more on this topic and implementing a trauma informed approach in your school, check out SST’s Trauma Informed Return to School training sessions:

For (Individual) Elementary School Educators
For (Group) Elementary School Educators

For (Individual) Secondary School Educators
For (Group) Secondary School Educators

For (Individual) Parents
For (Group) Parents