Working with students all having various degrees of trauma, you realize the complexity of its impact. There is no one formula for how trauma affects a person. There is no one behavior that manifests. There is no one outcome for which treatment or intervention take hold. Making a top down approach to behavioral or academic supports clearly misses the mark on effectiveness and efficiency.
However, teachers need this reminder. In the midst of their daily chaos of teaching, they don’t recognize the manifestation of trauma, neglect, and abuse. They simply are teaching. Reminding a teacher to make the connection, take time to reflect, and always consider the why is something we all need regularly.
I recently came across a young client, with a horrid background of neglect and probable physical and sexual abuse. Her adjustments to the new residential setting, was full of anger, tantrums, and violence. However, during one moment of unstructured play, she picked up a play guitar, and began to sing and strum. She stated she had never touched a guitar before, and yet she could at least make it sound like it went with her voice. The rhythm and tone appropriate. Her voice, everyone stopped to look. Upon hearing this, I reached out to Amazon and purchased as many musically oriented toys and ukulele. This may not be her start to actual musical education; however we are offering her something that may become a coping skill that is driven by what we noticed as a spark. We all have something that sparks our interests, is our “God given” talent, and fulfills us regardless of extended efforts. The child of neglect, the child of abuse, the child robbed of a nurturing environment may have not been exposed to their spark or has had no access to their spark. What a way for an educator to make a connection.
According Advocate Health Care, 3.3 million cases of abuse are reported each year, and yet only 1 in 3 cases are in fact reported. With abuse topping the list of scenarios resulting in trauma, there is no question it is far too prevalent in the classroom. Another report indicates 60% of adults report experiencing abuse or family trauma during childhood (Mental Health Connection). This all leads to the fact, that in our classrooms there are many children lost in trauma, missing out on their spark, and needing to find their inner coping skills. Making the connections, listening to your students, understanding their behaviors do not define could lead to a life changing moment for the child. To be heard, to have their spark recognized by others….these are huge moments in a scary, often sheltered small life.
I can’t say how our new little client will react to music as an addition to her life. Will it help when she needs to find a coping skill during school? Will it help when she is emotional dysregulated and cannot find her way back to calm? As said, there is no one intervention as there is no one child. Continually trying, for every single child is simply the least we can do.