29 thoughts on “VIOLENCE & TRAUMA”

  1. I was assessing a six-year-old male for autism on Tuesday and noticed that he seemed to react to touch in a way similar to children who have been victims of abuse and trauma. I know that individuals with autism are less likely to enjoy physical touch and affection so this may have had something to do with his reaction. However, after talking to my supervisor, he agreed that the child seemed more “jumpy” and “fearful” of others, which was similar to abused children he has worked with. He acted differently than any other child with autism that I’ve worked with. This makes me want to learn more about determining the difference between individuals with autism who don’t enjoy physical affection and those who have been victims of abuse. Often times, these may look similar so it can be difficult to distinguish between the two. Just a thought after an experience I had recently!

    1. Kirsten,

      This is a very interesting point you bring up in the similarities in response to touch in children that have autism who are naturally uncomfortable to physical touch or affection compared to those who have been abused by an adult whether they were once trusted or not. To me, this raises a question that future special educators should be aware of when determining whether it is a case of abuse that needs to be reported or if it is a symptom that comes along with cases of ASD. This post really makes you think about how even though each Autism case is different, so is an individual’s personal background or home life as well.

  2. In 1988 it was reported that more than 1200 children die from child abuse and neglect each year.. that number only rises as the years go on. More so, only one out of every six cases of child abuse receives attention from authorities…those are some scary statistics.
    It is important that teachers be on the lookout for victims of child abuse and know what to do if the situation ever arises. Teachers need to be aware of their students well-being; some ways to do so include looking for physical marks, rugged clothes (or unfitting for environment), lack of food, ect.
    Often times, schools become safe-havens for students experiencing troubled home lives. Teachers regularly interact with students more than any other adults, and it is up to them (teachers) to offer as much help as they can.

    This is a very informative website that insists that teachers stop being discouraged and overwhelmed by child abuse facts and start becoming heroes. It discusses systematic barriers as well as attitudinal barriers and helps teachers to discover what they CAN to give assistance.


    1. I work in an early childhood education center and recently during a mandatory training course, the topic of child abuse was rigorously discussed. The information included in the course was extremely eye opening and sickening. As we all know teachers are required to report any situation that raises red flags and show signs of abuse or neglect. The course made sure to include that teachers need to view reports as an investigation and never be afraid that they are going to cause more damage at home by reporting something. It was also discussed that signs of neglect may mean that parents are unable to provide for their children like they should, so with the report of potential neglect cases, you could in fact not only be helping the child, but the family as a whole as well.

      1. As a future educator I feel it would be beneficial to all teachers and staff to go through a course. This way we could pick up on warning signs and behaviors of childhood abuse and neglect. During our research on refugees and unaccompanied minors this semester we learned that many of these students suffer from violence and trauma. I feel that we must try to help these students that are suffering from abuse in any way possible.

    2. Your post reminds me of the book, “A Child Called ‘It.'” His abuse went by unnoticed, until his teachers and school staff paid attention. I think sometimes the school system forgets its obligations to protect its students, its children. Sometimes, I believe the teachers are too nervous to report abuse because of the stigma of false reporting, or the family’s status to the school or community, or various other possibilities. I believe it’s important for the educational system to realize it is a child’s home away from home. Teachers spend just as much time with the child as the parents, and it is their (teachers’) responsibility to act as a child’s safe haven, liaison, and protector.

  3. This is a very interesting article that talks about the exposure to violence and trauma that high school students experience and makes a call to action for policy makers to pay more attention to the challenges that community violence poses for teenagers and young adults. The article mentions that most research on trauma and education is about younger students, but that it is important to focus on high school students in order to boost college graduation rates. “what I find at the post-secondary level is that a lot of students have survived all sorts of things. And in becoming resilient people, their academic and social preparation for college have taken hit.”
    The article mentions efforts made in Massachusetts to create a K-12 trauma sensitive school. Laws have been passed requiring K-12 public schools to do more to identify kids who have experienced traumatic events and connect them with needed programs and services. everyone in the school building will be trained to understand the way that trauma shapes learning and student behavior. Teachers must run their classrooms in ways that account for the effects of trauma on learning. Schools must implement discipline policies that do not simply remove kids who misbehave due to trauma. I think these laws will be helpful in making sure that schools are trauma sensitive and important in engaging empathy before punishment, as mentioned in a previous post.
    The article also talks about Urban Prep School and how being trauma sensitive school has helped many of its black and latino male students further their education.

    1. A couple of years ago I had a 4 week sub position in a local middle school. One young man and I had a particularly difficult relationship. He seemed to look for things to conflict with me about. It wasn’t easy to find out some of the background on him but when I did I found that he was basically on his own. His mother an addict who prostituted herself to provide for her habits and left him on his own. Sometimes her “Johns” would beat on her and than on the student. The violent life he was forced to live told him that conflict was to be expected and that adult men would take advantage of him if he didn’t challenge them first. I will never forget him.

  4. In this article, The National Child Traumatic Stress Network provides interventions and treatments for people undergoing traumatic life events. The article uses evidence-based treatments and provides a brief description of each as well as links to more information about each intervention. I found this article interesting because it listed therapies that I had never heard of before. Child parent psychotherapy, group treatment for children affected by domestic violence, structured psychotherapy for adolescents responding to chronic stress and trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy are a few of the interventions mentioned. It think it is important that the article includes both group therapy as well as parent-child therapy. I think that group therapy is very effective for young adults because teens tend to become disconnected from their parents and it is easy to connect with someone who has the same or similar experiences as you. It can also be much easier to build a relationship with and open up to people who are closer in age with similar experiences.

  5. I completely agree with Brandy on the troubles of spotting abuse if it has been going on for a long amount of time. It is the responsibilities of teachers as a whole school to talk with each other and discuss any peculiar traits they notice in a child. If these traits have been occurring for an elongated period of time then the teachers need to come together present and past, and talk with the child to find out what is the deeper root of the problem.

  6. Sometimes it is easy to pinpoint when a student begins to experience abuse, but it is much more difficult to determine which students are being abused if they have been abused for a long period of time. I think it is important for the school system to have a plan in place to speak with each child every year to determine what changes occur and when there is need for intervention. Students are less likely to drop out and fail in school when they are surrounded by a proactive, supportive group of staff that wants to help them succeed.

    1. When I first read your suggestion, I thought speaking with each and every child every year would be impossible, but then again, just like in college and some high schools, the same way each student has an advisor, it could be set up in the same way. I do agree that teachers need to pay attention to their students to notice if they need intervention, however, what do we do about the students who suffer silently? Throughout the semester we worked on projects that covered the effects of trauma and violence on student learning, one thing that I found important to take away from the projects was that not everybody suffers the same, so it’s not always noticeable when a student is experiencing something traumatic. Also many times a student could act a certain way because of past experienced trauma, how do you deal with students that it’s too late to intervene?
      I remember in Elementary school we had a buddy system, where 1st through 3rd graders paired with 4th and 5th graders. As buddies, students wrote one another letters and ate lunch together a few times out the year. I think having something like this would be effective because students are building relationships with someone they can trust and possibly open up to, that way if anything is going on at home and students don’t want to speak to teacher about it, they may speak with their big buddy.

  7. It’s painful to hear about the long lasting impact of childhood violence on every single aspect of the child’s future life. Poverty contributes enormously to the likelihood of child abuse and violence, these stress factors leading the parents to resort to controlling issues out of anger. In what ways can we, as a society, address childhood trauma, but also the factors that lead parents to resort to violence? I think the closer we get to the source it can begin to help lower the numbers of child abuse.

    1. You mention getting closer to the source to help lower numbers of child abuse, I definitely agree with this. If we can somehow teach parents how to effectively cope, it would definitely help lighten the impact of childhood trauma. I believe that the most effective way of doing this would be to address the students who are now experiencing these traumas because the saying “hurt people, hurt people” is true and if we don’t intervene now on the students who are being traumatized, they will likely grow up and do the same to their children.

  8. For students, a traumatic experience may cause ongoing feelings of concern for their own safety and the safety of others. These students may become preoccupied with thoughts about their actions during the event, often times experiencing guilt or shame over what they did or did not do at the time. Because their minds are constantly drifting off into thinking about the traumatic event in which they experienced, these students often find it very difficult to focus in the classroom, as well as focus on the content being presented to them. As such, violence and trauma can have very devastating effects on children’s academic experiences. This article highlights topics such as: defining “traumatic events,” discussing the overall effects of trauma on students – pre-school, elementary, middle- and high school students, and the effects of trauma on students’ overall learning experience. Not only does this article provide a wide-scope for the discussion on the impact of trauma on students, but also specific examples of how trauma affects the wide-range of students in schools. Overall, it is a great article to sum up the effects of trauma on students, as well as to explain how trauma more specifically affects students’ learning experiences.

    1. I actually used this article in my recent research for our projects in class, I thought it was especially useful for educators because it basically tells you what to expect from a student in x grade level who has experienced trauma. I mentioned in an earlier post that not all people respond to trauma in a similar way, I think it’s important that this article re-iterates that some students may show a reverse behavior pattern, becoming very withdrawn, subdued or even mute. I think it is important for all educators and school personnel to have this knowledge of these effects of trauma because it is important for them to make appropriate interventions so that the students’ learning will not be effected.
      what makes this article even more effective is that it includes a link to another article that discusses readiness, response and recovery. The response and recovery sections are important for understanding what actions to take when a student is distressed and the recovery section discusses how to restore stability, maintain routines, use community support and gives consensus recommendations. The link to the second article is http://www.nctsn.org/resources/audiences/school-personnel/the-3r-school-crises-and-disasters

  9. This is a really interesting article with research conducted on how childhood trauma can cause later illnesses/disease, especially obesity and heart disease.

    “This growing body of research indicates that, right now, the health of millions of children is being shaped by abuse and neglect. As they grow up, these children will be more likely than other children to use behaviors like smoking, drinking and overeating to cope with stress.

    Preventing childhood trauma in the first place, Felitti, Anda and their proponents now believe, is one of the biggest opportunities to prevent disease — and save billions in health care costs. It’s an opportunity, they say, that American medicine and the health care industry still seem to be missing.”


    1. This article was very interesting, especially how the researcher decided to begin studying the issue. The article mentions the use of the Adverse Childhood Experiences Quiz which is a set of questions meant to trace how tough childhood experiences might affect adult health. I thought this Quiz was very interesting, and when I did further research on it, I found that it actually is widely used and frequently cited, though I have never heard of it before. The Quiz has 10 questions. High ACE scores were associated with cancer, addiction, diabetes and stroke. I think its important that the article mentions that not everyone with a high ACE score developed a serious illness. It is also interesting that the article uses a successful person who is actually working on their PhD as an example for someone with a high ACE score since we talk so much about how trauma effects learning. I would have never thought early childhood trauma would lead to serious illnesses later in life but thinking about it, it makes sense because of the stress it places on you. the article also mentions the response from the medical community was silence because of “intense skepticism.” “An association doesn’t necessarily mean that one thing caused another.” This was my initial reaction but I can also see the point the researcher was trying to make.

  10. I agree. As educators we must find ways to help our children through the emotional and physical aftereffects of trauma. On another note, poverty also has many traumatic emotional and physical effects often seen daily in schools and in neighborhoods. Hunger is not the only traumatic effect of poverty.

  11. When talking about trauma, violence, destructive behavior etc., we need to look way back to the child/person’s birth and to the issue of toxic stress.
    When a baby is born and is fearful or hurting, it cries. The body’s “fight or flight” mechanism kicks in releasing cortisol into the body. If there is an outside composed response such as touching or talking to the baby in a soft voice, the baby calms down and the secretion of cortisol stops. HOWEVER, if there is no calming response, cortisol continues to flood the organs, ultimately getting to the brain and causing toxicity called toxic stress. Children exposed to continuous risk factors for toxic stress (neglect, abuse, poverty, violence, substance abuse, parental mental health problems) are also more likely to develop asthma and have (among other effects) 61% chance of dropping out of school, 60% of running into trouble with the law, 50% probability of confinement in jail, juvenile detention or psychiatric facilities, 49% of repeated inappropriate sexual behavior (Streissguth et al., 2004). Then, these kids become parents themselves and the cycle continues.
    So before we point fingers and label, let’s remember that many violent offenders have traumatic histories rooted in early childhood experiences and not due to any fault of their own.
    Violence against oneself or against others is unacceptable, but being human means letting ourselves study the very complex situation prior to passing judgment and maybe, engaging empathy and education before punishment (which most probably will not make a difference anyway because toxic stress cannot be reversed).

    1. I think you make a great point in stressing empathy before punishment. Like we’ve touched on, students who are acting violent, to themselves or their peers, are probably troubled. They have been victims themselves and no one has addressed their needs in a productive or helpful manner. The psychologist in me would love to delve deeper and provide the emotional and social support they have obviously not been privy to. Yet, therapy can be a long process. How do we give students the support they need in an effective manner? Also, in what ways do we empower them so ensure they are successful after therapy? I believe this “therapist” role is one all educators take on whether they want to or not.

      1. I agree that you make an excellent point here. Empathy is so important for those struggling with the effects of trauma. I echo Lan’s questions about how we are to give students the support we need. From the field experience we did for our first assignment, it seemed pretty evident that teachers are already overwhelmed. Classrooms are overcrowded and understaffed, only exacerbating these issues. How do we provide our teachers with the time and willingness to take on that role as “therapist”?

    2. Engaging empathy and education before punishment is a very interesting statement because on one hand, you want to be understanding of what a person has been through because most times it is out of their control, but on the other hand, do they understand right from wrong, if so, why would we refrain from punishment? As we have mentioned time and time again in this blog, trauma can have very lasting effects on those who experience it. When you hear about a person doing something socially disturbing, like shooting up a school for instance, many people often times turn to the offender’s childhood to understand what lead them to do something so terrible but, in my opinion, having a tough childhood cannot be an excuse for doing bad things or hurting people. This is why I think it’s hard to engage empathy before punishment.

  12. I definitely agree that abuse has extremely long-term effects. Something that stood out to my during an interview at the school was the constant use of “pattern of behavior.” Staff were able to pinpoint when a student needed helped because they knew the student’s pattern of behavior. According to this article, acting out is a defense mechanism to abuse. It would be easy to see then, how a student affected by violence/trauma would project those emotions through acting out. Compensation could also be an explanation of those “perfectionist” students…?


    1. Yes, abuse can have long term effects on a person. Students could also be acting out because something is going on at home that isn’t abuse. Ex) parents getting a divorce, financial issues, death of a close relative. As educators part of our job is to be observant and pay close attention to our students and their behaviors so if we do suddenly see a change in a student then we can pull them aside and talk to them or contact the parent or counselor to try and figure out what is going on and help the student out in whatever way we can.

    2. I can definitely see many of these defense mechanisms used by a person who has experienced trauma. I think it is interesting that the article includes primitive, less primitive/more mature, and mature defense mechanisms. Some of them I have never heard of but the inclusion of a description and even examples was very helpful. A person can use this article to help them to become aware of what defense mechanism they are using, because often times defense mechanisms are unconsciously implemented. The article also tells how effective the mechanisms are and how to use them in the future.

  13. Interesting article on trauma’s health affects:

    “Usually we think of childhood trauma in terms of the social and emotional issues that can surface later in life. But it can also lead to serious physical problems.”


    This one shows some of the affect trauma has upon the brain, “Maltreatment during childhood can lead to long-term changes in brain circuits that process fear, researchers say. This could help explain why children who suffer abuse are much more likely than others to develop problems like anxiety and depression later on.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *