Helping children with trauma in education

Trauma can affect anyone of all ages. It can be especially hard on developing children and adolescents. Complex trauma can affect individuals completely differently and possibly affect how one behaves in education. Conflict and trauma can have a long-lasting negative impact on a child’s ability to concentrate and learn. 

Learning can be complex for children who have experienced trauma and are suffering from mental health difficulties. These difficulties can be things such as language, communication, behavioural and also things like sensory processing. Toxic stress caused by trauma can jeopardise normal brain development. This can cause issues regarding cognitive function, emotional regulation and normal behavioural health.

The Impact of Trauma on Education

The skills learnt in early education are skills which we carry for life. Reading and writing, mathematical problem solving and discussion are all key skills learnt in education. When the brain is developing in the early stages of life, we rely on our ability to organise, remember, learn and produce work. However, trauma can have a significant, long term impact on the brain in childhood, which can make these skills very difficult to learn and maintain. 

It is key that those who are experiencing trauma, or who have already experienced trauma, get the help they need to avoid hindered brain development. Focussing on emotional self-regulation and positive behaviours are ways to ensure healthy brain development and growth are present.

Research shows that trauma can affect children in education in a number of ways:

  • Compromised ability to stay focussed in class / short attention span
  • Reduced memory – difficulty following instructions/ remembering skills
  • Difficulty grasping ‘cause and effect’ relationships
  • Poor organisation skills
  • Hindered brain development with language/communication
  • Compromised sense of self-worth

Signs of Trauma in classroom behaviour 

Trauma can often make children in a school setting feel unsafe and almost like a battleground. This can result in individuals feeling overwhelmed and on high alert. This can make their classroom behaviour cause a defensive trigger. If the child feels out of control, not listened to, or scared this could cause loud and disruptive behaviour, almost like they want to be heard. Alternatively to this, the child could withdraw and make themselves, becoming emotionally numb and introverted. 

If you have a son or daughter or know of a child in need of psychological trauma, it is important to find them suitable support so that they don’t miss out during important years of education. Organisations such as Meadows Psychology Service offer psychological assessments for children to understand better each young person’s strengths and difficulties throughout their educational journey.