According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) by age 16, two-thirds of all children in the US will have experienced some sort of traumatic event. These traumatic exposures, often referred to as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), range from emotional neglect to family members diagnosed with mental illness. The 10 different childhood ACEs lead children to potentially experience a wide range of reactions including grief, difficulties with attention, illness, and academic problems. Trauma has also been shown to affect brain development in numerous ways including chronic fight or flight reactions. The staggering statistics below are indeed a call for us as educators to respond to trauma.

More information on the impact of childhood trauma can be found here.

Systematic Core Areas of Trauma-Informed School Systems

Due to the impact trauma has on the educational processes related to teaching and learning, NCTSN insists that schools must begin to recognize how traumatic experiences can impact students’ success in schools from both an educational and achievement standpoint. In order to do so, many organizations including NCTSN and the Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS) have released numerous resources on integrating trauma-informed practice into already existing MTSS and PBIS frameworks.

To begin, NCTSN argues that there are 10 Core Areas of a trauma-informed school system that inform all practices.

More details on the 10 Core Areas of a trauma-informed school system can be found here.

MTSS, PBIS/RTI2-B, and Trauma-Informed Practice Mapping

The trauma-informed core areas are easily mapped onto existing MTSS tiered systems in place. It is encouraged for these trauma-informed practices to be mapped onto these existing tiered systems in order to establish structures, monitor effectiveness, ensure efficiency, and create sustainability of these practices. Here is an example of how to map these practices onto existing MTSS Core Features:

More details for how these core features can be built out can be found here.

Additionally, trauma-informed practices are meant to be mapped onto existing behavioral expectations matrices created during the initial PBIS/RTI2-B process. Here is an example from the Center on PBIS of how to include these practices within a behavioral expectations matrix:

More information on how to map trauma-informed practices onto other currently functioning systems can be found here.

Ongoing Support

Along with school-wide supports, there are also many resources on how to implement trauma-informed practices within the classroom. Educators are encouraged to create the space for a trauma-informed classroom by doing the following:

  1. Learn about the impacts of history and systemic racism.
  2. Create and support safe and brave environments.
  3. Model and support honesty and authenticity.
  4. Honor the impacts of history and systemic racism.
  5. Encourage and empower students as leaders.
  6. Care for yourself.

More details for each of these steps can be found here.

The Tennessee Department of Education’s Best for All Central website has a variety of professional development resources for educators, including information on Trauma-Informed Classrooms and Trauma-Informed Schools. Here is an example of their resource on Responding Versus Reacting:

Ultimately, incorporating trauma-informed practices is both feasible and necessary to support the whole child. By adding in these components to an already existing structure, schools are able to support students in new and meaningful ways.

A variety of helpful videos, examples, and resources to help strengthen your trauma-informed practices can be found here.

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