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A few tips to help schools become ACE-aware, Attachment-aware and trauma-informed


We have outlined a few overall approaches a school can adopt to become more ACE-aware, Attachment-aware and trauma-informed

Often the damage incurred as a result of ACEs and childhood trauma is complex and spans over a long period of time, therefore the ‘repair’ of this damage does not consist of a quick-fix and you cannot adopt a one size fits all ‘package’.  It often depends on the severity and timing of the trauma and the impact can cause a cascade of impaired functioning both socially, emotionally and cognitively.

Some key areas to consider are:

  • Developing positive relationships - where you normalise a child's disrupted body and brain stress response systems and develop self regulation.
  • Competencies where you give the child opportunities to improve competencies such as self concept where they haven't had the necessary environment to acquire these skills.
  • Self regulation where different approaches to behavioural management (not just reacting to the behaviour) help traumatised children to learn to regulate their emotions and behaviour.

Here are some overall whole school approaches that can have a significant impact:

    • Continuously maintain an awareness of the impact of ACEs, toxic stress and trauma.
    • Adopt a whole school policy and practice that are consistently implemented along side ongoing whole school training, support, strategies and resources - Senior leaders need to truly understand what they are dealing with and proactively take steps to address it.
    • Maintain a safe, predictable, calm environment that prioritises relationships and consistency, so pupils feel valued, supported, connected and ready to learn e.g. Demonstrating unconditional positive regard to all pupils (and school staff) at all times. Punitive behaviour policies do not work for children that have had difficult childhoods as they can fuel feelings of deep-rooted anxiety and shame but restorative practices do improve the relationship between people and communities.
    • Remember that behaviour is a symptom of the problem, not the problem. Be curious about behaviour – ask “what happened to you?” rather than “what is wrong with you?” Do not take things personally – it is not about you.
    • Teach pupils to self-regulate and calm their stress response system and eliminate stress triggers from the environment – loud voices, abrupt sounds, etc.  Providing a variety of practical subjects such as music, art, drama, dance, sport and technology.  These subjects offer children experiencing adversity therapeutic qualities that help children regulate, allow them to feel a sense of success, let them express themselves and their creativity, and help to repair some of the damage done to the brain through early adversity.
    • Support the pupils’ care-givers and connect with the whole family – it improves the pupils’ outcomes.
    • Ideally these children need permanent, knowledgeable professionals who understand what has happened to them and will be there consistently and compassionately, no matter what these children throw at them.

For more information about Trauma Informed Practices click here to read this article about Trauma Informed Practices in Plymouth.

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