Why Trauma Informed Care in Early Childhood settings is essential.
Many of our early childhood students are living in poverty and underserved neighborhoods. They are far too often exposed to generational patterns of gang activity, crime, community violence, and interpersonal violence.
Based on Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) studies and other early childhood research, approximately 22% (nationwide) and 26% (locally in San Bernardino County), of children experience adverse circumstances, and many of them come to school manifesting symptoms of chronic stress and trauma. Some of these children are not only exposed to trauma, their experiences are so significant that they actually meet the threshold on the symptom scale for moderate to severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). How do we meet the needs of these children?
Research has shown that a "trauma-informed" school environment benefits every student. Trauma-informed early intervention and support targets not only early education providers, but parents, families and other caregivers as well. Trauma-Informed Support in Early Childhood Education embeds a trauma informed early intervention (TIEI) approach into the classroom environment, to be embraced by the entire school culture which builds personal connections on a daily basis with children.
A TIEI approach in Early Childhood Education includes:
Recognition of the prevalence of trauma
Recognition of the connection between trauma history and the child's problems/behaviors: aggression, defiance, absenteeism, learning differences
Attention to triggers that may be present in the school environment that can be activated in the course of the day (resisting re-traumatization)
Responding by putting this knowledge into practice
Trauma-informed approaches ask "What happened to you?" not "What's wrong with you?"
By viewing behavior through a "trauma lens," teachers can play an important role in building connections that foster security and lead to emotional, regulatory, and behavioral balance with children. A TIEI approach like Trauma-Informed Support in Early Childhood Education teaches specific strategies to use for students who have experienced trauma. It fills a gap through a combination of training for educators and parents while embedding mental health supports within the classroom. Teachers receive training in the causes of social emotional and behavioral health issues in children; the evidence of early childhood mental health disorders; the neuroscience behind the impact of adverse experiences in a young child's life; builds a sense of community amongst themselves as everyday providers; and how to take care of themselves when affected by compassion fatigue.
Mental health professionals are embedded into supporting teachers in implementation of developmentally appropriate instruction in an environment that focuses on feeling safe with a relational connection to adults. Children are taught strategies for regulating their "big feelings." Parents are taught skills for creating connections with their children in their home and supporting the behavioral de-escalation strategies that are taught in school. By combining mental health supports within the context of an early education environment, this approach provides single-point access to supports and services which are essential to the child healing along with the development of self-regulation strategies at a point in the child's life that is neurodevelopmentally crucial to the child's development.