Opportunities for Trauma Education Online

By: Dana Asby, CEI Intern 

Advances in neuroscience over the past decade have led to a greater understanding of how trauma affects student behavior and outcomes and how we educate stakeholders about those effects. The psychology community has expanded its idea of trauma to include not just abuse, neglect, natural disasters, and war, but also extreme poverty, systemic racism, and other forms of oppression. As America faces a crisis of extreme poverty, especially among children and rural populations, that inspired the United Nations to declare a state of emergency (Alston, 2017), the need to examine our teaching practices in terms of how trauma is addressed cannot be ignored. Advocates for educational reform ask that we transform the way we teach to students who have experienced trauma. Various organizations and institutions are offering online training for those who work closely with traumatized children that uses neuroscience to explain the effects of trauma on student behavior and how best to create a supportive environment in which these children can thrive.

Free Online Training. Many organizations whose purpose is to advocate for the needs of traumatized children provide cursory online training that introduces the audience to concepts that help them understand how trauma affects brain development, primarily through the over activation of the autonomic nervous system and amygdala and the suppression of hippocampal development (Luby et. al, 2013; Noble et. al., 2015; Brito & Noble, 2014), and subsequent child behavior and achievement (Javanbakht et. al., 2015; Hair et. al., 2015). The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) offers a comprehensive and free selection of over 200 online webinars about trauma education through The Learning Center. Educators, therapists, parents, and other stakeholders can register and engage at their own pace with courses about the effects of trauma and best practices to heal the pain that accompanies trauma.

Topics include:
‘¢ The Role of Trauma Among Families Struggling with Substance Abuse
‘¢ The 12 Core Concepts for Understanding Traumatic Stress Responses in Children and Families
‘¢ Creating Trauma-Informed Systems
‘¢ Schools and Trauma

Much of the training geared specifically to teachers focuses on strategies teachers can use to develop self-regulation skills in their traumatized students whose abilities to regulate their emotions can be impaired by the adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) they have experienced (Cameron, Carroll, and Hamilton, 2018). For example, Communities in Schools offers a free 43 minute online ‘Trauma Training for Educators’ video as well as sorter videos around 15 minutes that offer a crash course on trauma in educational contexts and information on building self-regulation skills in traumatized populations. Free online training opportunities like this can be valuable resources for underfunded schools serving large numbers of students who have and/or are currently confronting multiple ACEs.

Online Seminars. While the training modules referenced above are excellent introductions to the general theories of trauma education, there are options for paid online seminars that dive more deeply into specific concerns of those who work closely with children who have experienced trauma. These seminars bring together leading experts in the field of trauma education to discuss the most recent research about how trauma affects student behavior and outcomes and the most effective treatments.

The Healing Trauma Summit was a 10 day online event offered in mid-June 2018 to clinicians and those who have experienced trauma that explains the neurological effects of trauma and helps participants understand several potential paths, most inspired by mindfulness, to healing. Twenty-four psychologists and medical doctors present their research on different aspects of trauma via webinars.

Examples include:
‘¢ Dr. Peter Levine, ‘Somatic Experiencing: Healing Trauma Through the Wisdom of the Body:’ an explanation of how trauma affects the body and gives methods for overcoming intense negative emotions associated with trauma
‘¢ Dr. Mark Epstein, ‘The Trauma of Everyday Life:’ a lecture on how to recognize the symptoms of trauma and how attachment theory is related to the Buddhist idea of ‘detachment’ in an attempt to better understand how to help those who have experienced trauma
‘¢ Leslie Booker, ‘Embodying Radical Presence: Awareness of Race, Culture, and Self in Healing Trauma:’ an analysis of how identities and learned biases affect interpersonal relationships and how to use Basic Somatic Experiencing to become grounded in emotions.

While this summit was marketed primarily to clinicians working with traumatized populations, the information in this seminar is applicable to educators working with students who had traumatic childhoods. Schools could see this as an inexpensive professional development opportunity as the seminars are approved for Continuing Education credits. To view the videos, interested schools and organizations can pay $297 for lifetime access.

Note that the Center for Educational Improvement offers seminars on trauma.   Also, Drs. Mason, Rivers Murphy, & Jackson have authored a book that includes a comprehensive treatment of trauma and provides mindfulness activities to address childhood trauma. The book, Mindfulness Practices: Cultivating Heart Centered Communities where Students Thrive and Flourish, will be available September 2018.

References  

Alston, P. (2017). Statement on visit to the USA, by Professor Philip Alston, United Nations
Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. United Nations Human
Rights, Office of the High Commissioner.

Brito, N.H. and Noble, K.G. (2014). Socioeconomic status and structural brain development.
Frontiers in Neuroscience, 8.

Cameron, L.D., Carroll, P., and Hamilton, W.K. (2018). Evaluation of an intervention promoting
emotion regulation skills for adults with persisting distress due to adverse childhood
experiences. Child Abuse & Neglect, 79, 423-433.

Communities in Schools. (n.d.). Trauma training for educators. Communities in Schools website.

Hair, N.L., Hanson, J.L., & Wolfe, B.L. (2015). Association of child poverty, brain
development, and academic achievement. Journal of American Medical
Association-Pediatrics, 169, 9, 822-829.

Healing Trauma Summit. (2018). Welcome to healing trauma summit. Sounds True website.

Javanbakht, A., King, A.P., Evans, G.W., Swain, J.E., Angstadt, M., Phan, K.L., & Liberson, I.
(2015). Childhood poverty predicts adult amygdala and frontal activity and connectivity
in response to emotional faces. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.

Luby, J., Belden, A., Botteron, K., Marrus, N. Harms, M.P., Babb, C., Nishino, T., & Barch, D.
(2013). The effects of poverty on childhood brain development: The mediating
effect of caregiving and stressful life events. JAMA Pediatrics 167(12): 1135-1142.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). (2018). The Learning Center. NCTSN
website.

Noble, K.G. et. al. (2015) Family income, parental education and brain development in children
and adolescents. Nature Neuroscience, 18, 773-778.

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