I had a great training today with my colleagues about how trauma affects kids: it was called “Creating a Trauma Informed Learning Environment.” I’ve worked with adolescents who are trauma survivors for years, but I never really knew about how the brain actually changes due to over production of the stress hormone cortisol. Trauma can be caused by a single incident (such as a death in the family) or it can be complex and be caused by many incidents over a long period of time(such as abuse or neglect). Both types cause major changes to the brain and undermine a person’s ability to cope. Too much cortisol in the brain causes sleep problems, learning problems, and an inability to regulate emotions. How a person behaves is directly related to the trauma: a person might be aggressive, or depressed and withdrawn, but the basic idea is that the trauma causes stress that makes a person unable to access learning or processing until they are in a more calm and relaxed state. There are many things that we already do at my school to help students return to a calmer state, but sometimes a behavioral incident that needs to be processed will have to wait a lot longer before being addressed. The biggest thing you can do with students who need to calm down is to co-regulate their body using repetitive, rhythmic movements. Rocking chairs, exercise balls, and music are some of the tools you can use. Having predictable routines will also be a big help to trauma survivors. For more information go to http://mentalhealth.vermont.gov/cafu/vctc/arc. Using these techniques in your classroom is good for all of your students.