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Trauma-Informed Practices

Through a partnership with the University at Buffalo Institute on Trauma and Trauma-Informed Care, the Ken-Ton School District will be among the first in Western New York to implement a comprehensive district-wide framework of trauma-informed practices.

Trauma can come from a variety of sources in a child’s life. Everything from an incident such as accident or death to long-term factors such as abuse, neglect, abandonment, and homelessness can cause trauma in a child. This might have a profound impact on how a child is able to learn and function in school.

Classroom teachers, staff, and administrators may not know what this child is facing. Well-meaning adults might inadvertently make things worse if they do not know the child has been impacted by trauma or the best approaches to take with such children.

By becoming a trauma-informed district, the Ken-Ton School District will ensure that all staff are trained in understanding and identifying trauma in children.

This work is being facilitated by Susan Green and Tom Nochajski Ph.D., co-directors of the Institute on Trauma and Trauma-Informed Care, part of the UB School of Social Work.

This partnership was made possible by a grant through the Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation, a local foundation which supports initiatives in the areas of mental health, substance use disorders, intellectual disabilities, and learning disabilities. The district successfully applied for the grant in September, and in December the district was awarded a two-year $135,940 grant.

The initiative focuses on building a school- and district-wide structure to cultivate awareness of trauma – what types of trauma children may face; how it impacts their ability to learn and function in school; how it might impact attendance and behavior; and how actions by adults can impact, both positively and negatively, a child who has faced trauma.

The structures presently in place to support the social-emotional well-being of students, such as the school counselors, psychologists and social workers and the district’s Family Support Center, will still carry out the care of children who have faced trauma. The initiative will ensure that all staff have a solid understanding of what they can watch for and expect and to tailor their approach in the most beneficial way possible for children who have faced trauma.

“Acute trauma can impair concentration and memory,” said Jan Cerra, Family Support Center Director. “Intrusive thoughts, interrupted sleep, nightmares, moodiness, frustration, anger and social withdrawal are common. Chronic trauma can result in language deficits, executive functioning deficits impacting goal setting, organization, planning, anticipating consequences, distorted views of the world, and poor relationships with school staff and peers that impact learning. Becoming a trauma-sensitive district can help to mediate the impact of the trauma and encourage these and all students become successful.”

Each school will have a Champion Team, comprised of five to seven faculty, staff and administrators, who will facilitate a culture of awareness and understanding of trauma.

“The role of each Champion Team is to assist with the continued school roll-out of the training and facilitating trauma-informed awareness among staff."

Over the implementation period, trainings will be provided for all school staff beginning with Champion Teams at each of the district’s nine school buildings. The first of three Trauma 101 trainings for Champion Team members took place on March 28. This is the training that will be provided for all staff, everyone from school administrators and classroom teachers to food service workers and bus drivers.

“The expectation is that by the end of our roll-out, every staff member will have received that training, Trauma 101, which addresses how trauma affects children."

This way, everyone who interacts with children at any point in any capacity will have an understanding of trauma.