Harding High School

Trauma Informed Newsletter March 2016 Edition

Recognizing and Responding to Student Triggers

Trigger (def.): refers to words or non-verbal behavior that produces anger or other negative emotional reactions.

Common student triggers in the school setting:

Name calling
Being sworn at
Being called out publicly
Harsh or authoritarian tone or raised voice
Accusations
Sarcasm
Condescending comments
Nagging
Inconsistently responding to student behaviors

Emotions that students experience when they are triggered:

Anger
Incompetence/feeling stupid
Anxiety
De-valued
Disrespected
Scape goated
Humiliation

BEHAVIORS THAT STUDENTS EXHIBIT WHEN THEY ARE TRIGGERED:

Irritability
Swearing
Angry outburst
Hyperactivity
Refusal to do Work
Walk out of the room
Withdrawn
Avoidance of peers and/or teacher
Shut down-head on desk
Verbal aggression
Oppositional behavior
Limit testing
Daydreaming
Forgetfulness

"Look for moments when the intensity of the child's response does not match the intensity of the stressor, or when a child's behaviors seem inexplicable or confusing." Consider that yes, the student has been triggered. What can I do now?

Adult Strategies to Minimize Student Triggers

  • Greet students as they enter the room
  • Use calm voice when communicating expectations
  • Be attuned to the student (notice the feeling) and listen to the student's narrative
  • Re-iterate behavioral expectations one-on-one (instead of in front of the class)
  • Use neutral/positive tone
  • Give specific directives for behavior (what to do)
  • Discuss student behavior (not personal traits)
  • Avoid nagging
  • Use proximity
  • Cue student in use of skills (i.e. deep breathing, sitting quietly, calming space, stress ball)
  • Keep yourself centered-anticipate your own triggers and actively work on self-talk ("I can handle this"; This isn't about me; etc)
  • Teach and model self-advocacy and self-regulation skills
  • Reinforce use of modulation skills (i.e. I'm really proud of you for trying to calm down your energy")
  • Invite expression/communication when child is calm