Trauma Histories of Students Affect Staff

Lynn Garst (bio) contends that the trauma histories of students dramatically affect the teachers and staff who work with them.

Because of the extensive trauma histories that many of these children have, they come with a very complex set of behaviors that can really impact any staff that works with them. And among those are one — the disregulation to emotion that we see.

So these are kids that can go from being very calm to very escalated in no time at all. And, very frequently, we don't know what the triggers are that really set that off. So teachers and other school staff are really having to work with that kind of behavior, which can be very stressful. And if you think about a primary responsibility these days is to keep schools safe, then these are kids that can really stress that system.

Another characteristic of these kids has to do with disregulation or disrupted attachment. So many times, these are kids that are very hard to relate to, that really work very hard to keep people pushed away. Or kids on the other end that really have no boundaries at all, that can be very provocative in a lot of ways.

Again, it can be very stressful. Teachers come into school, and come into education, because they want to relate to kids. And yet, there's this whole group of kids that work very hard to keep people distant from them.

And I think the third characteristic of kids with complex trauma is really a disruption to cognitive development. And part of that has to do with having difficulty learning, taking in information, adjusting behavior to that, and we see these kids are very rigid in their behavior.

Talk about the learning brain, and it really disrupts the ability for these kids to really learn. But even a bigger piece of that is that it impacts how they view the world, so that you may have kids that see the world as very hostile, and that is really their relationship to the world. So that impacts, again, how they relate to others, how they relate to school staff.

So it's really the impact of all of these complex behaviors that can impact anybody that works with these kids. It's not just therapists. It's not school social workers. It's that classroom teacher that day in, day out, is working with these youth that come with really sometimes horrible kinds of experiences that impact everything that they do.

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Excerpted from an interview at CBITS Summit 2012 in Santa Monica, CA.


More About "Secondary Traumatic Stress"


More From Lynn Garst (bio)

  • Symptoms of Secondary Traumatic Stress in Staff