Identifying childhood trauma in school children

KCBD Newschannel 11 at 10 Identifying childhood trauma 10/23/2019

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - In our community, children have varying experiences. Some which are classified as ACEs, or adverse childhood experiences.

ACEs can include neglect, significant loss, abuse or a variety of other things.

These adverse childhood experiences can lead a child to act out in school, or even experience physical pain.

Taylor Hendrix, Med, LPC Intern at The Playroom Lubbock, supervised by Kelly Martin, Med, LPC-S, RPT-S, said when a child is born into an adverse home, they may not have all of their needs met.

“I think in schools it can be easy to look at just that overlying behavior, how do we fix the behavior, when instead we could look at what’s underneath that behavior,” Hendrix said.

Hendrix said the part of the brain that regulates a child’s emotion may not have developed as it should, which can lead to a variety of issues... from a tummy ache to an ADHD diagnosis.

Hendrix said a child may be experiencing physical pain, but the underlying trigger could be stress.

“It’s like when you go to the doctor and you’ve had a really bad headache and you’re just told to take Advil. That’s just treating that really surface level, treating the symptoms,” Hendrix said.

Charlotte Sessom, Director of Counseling and College Career Readiness at Lubbock ISD, said if something is not right outside of school, it is going to be hard to be successful at school.

“It’s not just about how’d you do on your math test, but it’s how are you really doing?” Sessom said.

Sessom said they do not have a cookie cutter approach to helping a child deal with trauma, it’s proactive and specified to each individual student.

Heather Wood LSSP, Lubbock ISD Special Services Coordinator, said there is a multi-tier system of support for a student’s academic needs, as well as for their social, emotional and behavioral needs.

“Looking at the individual needs of the child and help them figuring out how to help navigate these experiences that they’ve had and really develop the skills that they need for their future,” Wood said.

This could be as simple as getting them involved in athletics or music opportunities, or it could require a care plan beginning with a counseling assessment that progresses to a student support team or psychological evaluation.

“It’s really on an individual basis, so there’s no blanket statement, there’s no one thing that helps and works for everyone,” Wood said.

She said the most important thing for a child who is experienced trauma is to provide them with healthy connections with people.

“Relationships with people who care about them and are going to be there to support them are consistent with them,” Wood said.

“They see the light in your eyes that says I care for you, I believe in you and they really cling to that and that can be just so healing,” Hendrix said.

Lubbock ISD staff is trained to observe students and recognize signs of trauma or stress.

Hendrix said it is important for people to know this is not rare.

She said the ACEs study shows that 64 percent of people have experienced at least one adverse childhood experience.

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