The Developmental, Academic & Emotional Effects of Trauma: How the ACEs Study Informs the Biopsychosocial Approach to Trauma-Informed Schools
*Note: This workshop will be delivered in two 90-minute Zoom sessions with a break in between Parts 1 and 2.
The biopsychosocial approach to the study of childhood complex trauma incorporates information about child development and brain growth as it relates to the environment and/or social context in which a child is growing. Regarding the identification and treatment of children with a history of physical or psychological trauma, scientific research tells us that repeated early childhood trauma exposure changes the architecture of the brain and may create oversensitivity to threat and later compromise planning and organization skill development. Not only does untreated early trauma affect neurodevelopment but it can also significantly alter appropriate psychosocial functioning, provide a basis for violence, and negatively affect life-long outcomes. Not only does untreated early trauma affect neurodevelopment but it can also significantly alter appropriate psychosocial functioning, provide a basis for violence, and negatively affect life-long outcomes. However, trauma-related responses in the brain, illuminated by recent but little known affective neuroscientific research, indicates that trauma responses are adaptive and helpful if understood and placed in context. If we drill down and truly understand the biological/homeostatic human emotional functioning, then we have the key to providing efficient and powerful assistance that optimizes adaptive functioning and we will be able to assist the transformation of trauma into resilience.
There are generally four main lines of research that inform the biopsychosocial aspects of trauma-informed approaches for school psychologists: 1) brain development and toxic stress, 2) the neuroscience of emotion 3) educator self-care, and 4) biologically-informed trauma sensitive systems.
Human biopsychosocial systems are about homeostasis (survival) and homeostasis is about learning how to survive optimally. Trauma-informed schools are therefore fundamentally based on or about physical and psychological safety. Securing the physical plant, training crisis prevention and management, making the environment predictable, having predictable policies and procedures, fair and equitable management of negative behaviors, highlighting positive behaviors, positive support from the community, and centering the whole school/child experience around positive relationships are necessary conditions mandated by the human nervous system for optimal learning to take place. The more we learn about homeostatic neuroscience the more we will understand how to drive the design and sustainability of trauma-informed schools.
Participants will be able to:
- Describe the key findings of the Adverse Childhood Events study as it relates to enacting a trauma sensitive approach to children in schools.
- Describe the impact of childhood trauma on brain development and behavior.
- Describe the components of trauma-informed schools.
- Practice trauma-sensitive interactions with children in schools.
Elaine Fletcher-Janzen, Ed.D., NCSP, ABPdN, obtained her doctorate in School Psychology from the College of William and Mary in 1993, and has been a school psychologist in the public schools, neuropsychiatric inpatient, and university settings for the past 36 years. Dr. Fletcher-Janzen received her Diplomate in Pediatric Neuropsychology in 2010; Distinguished Research Scholar Award from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology in 2014; and the Excellence in Psychological Assessment Award from Gonzaga University in 2019. Dr. Fletcher-Janzen is a member of the National Association of School Psychologists, the International Neuropsychological Society, the American Psychological Association, Division 40, and the International School Psychology Association.