August 18, 2022

How to handle a student with trauma

For children who have encountered trauma, learning can be a big struggle. However, trauma-informed teaching can help.


Trauma-informed pedagogy requires having a keen awareness of our students’ past and present experiences and the effects of those experiences on students’ well-being.


Positive relationships. Trauma-affected students have more relationship challenges to navigate than most. These students can be dealing with toxic relationships at home and then come to school to manage relationships not only with their teachers but also with social workers, police officers, and clinicians—all while living out their daily lives. We must help these students feel safe and trusting where possible, so they learn to develop social intelligence and seek out positive bonds with others.


Make an “out” plan. Create a way for a student to take space if she feels triggered or overwhelmed during class. Designate a space in the school building or outside where you will know where to find her if she needs to take time for a sensory break or to regulate her emotions. You can also provide a box or kit of sensory calming tools a student can use (Silly Putty, coloring, puzzles).

Foster trustworthiness and transparency through connection and communication among students. A focus on creating and maintaining trust can mitigate the adverse effects of uncertainty and help students find meaning and connections in your class. That means articulating how each assignment relates to the objectives of the course, as well as spelling out the steps required to complete each assignment and how it will be evaluated. Foster trust by being clear, transparent, and reliable.

Self-regulation can be a major challenge for students suffering from trauma
Some kids with trauma grow up with emotionally unavailable parents. The result is the inability to self-soothe. They may develop distracting behaviors and have trouble staying focused for long periods. To help them cope, you can schedule regular brain breaks and promote social-emotional learning

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