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Orange County, CA: MORE TRAUMATIZED STUDENTS: "angry outbursts"- parents are to blame

Mar 17, 2019, Orange County (CA) Review: Schools respond to increase in children’s trauma Walk the halls of any building in the Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) when students are changing classes or heading to lunch, and you’ll see smiling faces and hear lots of chatter and giggling. Look more closely, and you might spot a somber face or a visibly angry one. Maybe these children are just having a bad day. Or maybe they’re dealing with deep-seated trauma. Orange County school administrators say they’re seeing an increase in the number of children affected by trauma. Some have parents whose drug addictions prevent them from holding jobs. Some have lost their parents to lethal overdoses. Others tell of financial setbacks, impoverishment or family members in prison. Why has there been a jump in the number of children confronting dire problems? “Schools are a reflection of society,” said Susan Aylor, OCPS director of special education. “When I think back to when I was in school as a young child, the issues and the situations that our children today deal with are much different.” … An uptick in traumatized children Aylor said it’s hard to quantify the number of traumatized children in the local school division, since not all students talk about what’s bothering them. Still, she said discussions at the state and national level indicate the numbers are rising everywhere. … The county has two school social workers, Amy Reed and Wendy Boone, who address the urgent needs of traumatized students. But on a day-to-day basis, many teachers are confronted with troubled students who lose control of their emotions and can’t focus on their work. If their upheaval takes the form of an angry outburst, the whole class is affected and learning grinds to a halt for everyone. To help alleviate a growing problem, Aylor applied for and got two federal grants designed to help traumatized children, their teachers and classmates. … One of the grants enabled the schools to bring in a consultant, Dr. Julia Taylor of the University of Virginia, who is an assistant professor in the counselor education program at the Curry School of Education & Human Development. A former school counselor and dean of an all-girls’ school in Raleigh, Taylor is an expert on helping school staff work with traumatized children. Last August she met with OCPS school psychologists, counselors and social workers. She also met with school administrators and held training sessions for teachers at every school. During her presentations to teachers, Taylor defined trauma as “an event, series of events or set of circumstances experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening. … For those who wonder what happens when a traumatized child acts out in class, Taylor said teachers “see a lot of disrespect, disruptive behavior, personality changes [and] difficulty concentrating in school.” Traumatized children also may have “intense or exaggerated reactions” to seemingly innocuous situations. They may not trust adults, and they may have a hard time “self-regulating”—that is, monitoring and controlling their emotions. “Trauma-sensitive” classrooms Taylor advised teachers on how to create “trauma-sensitive” classrooms. In a phone interview, she said that in general terms that means building a trusting relationship with each student and making sure everybody feels safe and cared for. It also means giving upset students time to calm down and regain a sense of equilibrium before rejoining the rest of the class. She also encourages teachers to help volatile students figure out what triggers their disruptive behavior. With greater self-knowledge typically comes greater self-control. … The other grant Aylor received for the current school year is helping young students, participants in self-contained special education programs and their teachers. OCPS is partnering with Health Connect America, a mental and behavioral health services company. Two school support specialists and their supervisor, all employed by Health Connect America, are working with teachers in Locust Grove Primary School, Unionville Elementary School and Gordon-Barbour Elementary School…. On a tour of the school he has led since 2017, he pointed out the “blue connection” in the music classroom. At child’s eye level, there was a sheet of paper taped to the wall showing the outline of two small hands. To calm themselves, children press their hands against the outlines and concentrate on their breathing. After that, they might try out a relaxation tool that requires them to move colored beads along two intersecting strings. As yet another option, they could sort through a box of brightly colored “fidgets” and find one that helps them refocus. …
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