Trauma Informed Newsletter

Parkway Montessori Middle School - April 2016

April's Topic: Helping Youth Who Have Experienced Trauma

Now that you have a basic understanding of what trauma is and the effects on the brain, let's take a closer look at how to help youth who have experienced trauma...

If you need to access previous newsletters:

What should I do if a student discloses a traumatic event they have experienced?

Adults should not pressure the child to talk about the traumatic event but should be prepared to hear about it when the child is ready. Children who sense an adult may become uncomfortable with or upset about the event may avoid talking about it. When the child begins talking, the adult should listen, avoid overreacting, answer questions, and provide comfort and support.

1) Attend to the student in that moment-- give them your full attention.
2) Ask the student how you can support them--i.e. Is there someone they already talk to about this event? Is there someone at school that they would like to talk to about this?
3) Develop strategies on how to support the student in class--make a plan with them based off of their stated needs.
- Collaborate with mental health professionals in your building if unsure of how to support student (School Social Workers, Therapists).
4) Refer student to speak with the school counselor or school social worker-- if not comfortable with that, direct them to an adult they can trust.

General Tips When a Student is Disregulated:

What are the primary goals:

  • To help the student calm down in order to use their “thinking brain”.

  • To help the student see that adults understand and will support them.

  • To get the student back to class and learning.

  • To help the student understand what they did and why it was a problem for someone else.

General Strategies:

  • Use non verbal signals when possible. (for example: indicate to a student with a gesture that you see them and will get to them as soon as possible)

  • Talk in a private space away from other students using the 3 S’s: soft, slow, simple

  • Talk as little as possible, and when you do talk use “I” statements.

  • Ask questions rather than commands or directives.


Compassionately reflect what you see: “I’m noticing that you are having trouble right now” or “I’m noticing that you look frustrated” or “I’m noticing that you are having a hard time getting started”

Use an “I” statement: “I’m concerned that if we don’t take the time to make a plan, you might get more upset” or “I’m worried that you won’t learn this, and then you’ll get behind.”

Ask a question: “What’s up?” or “What would help you right now?”

Offer a couple choices of things the student can do, at least one of which should be appealing:

-Would you like to stay here, or would you rather go to a more private space?

-How do you think we can give you what you need and also get what I (the teacher) need?

Remind the student about their “thinking brain” or frontal lobe and what would help them get out of their “fight/flight” brain or emotional brain.

Plan: If student is not able to make good choices, where is a place they feel safe and can utilize calming techniques to calm down their brain.

CALM Technique By Jennifer Kolari


-Put everything down. Give your full attention to the person.

A-Affect Matching

-No use of language.

-Match the student’s emotion on YOUR face—This engages their LIMBIC system.

-This releases Oxytocin (a powerful anti-stress hormone that plays a role in bonding and acts as a neurotransmitter).

-Creates TRUST

-Oxytocin is BRAIN FOOD, emotional water, air—what we all need to strengthen a bond.

-Creates deep love and connection.

-Keeps them out of flight, flight, or freeze response.


-THINK about what you are going to say, and more importantly, HOW you are going to say it.

- Kids don’t remember what you said, but how you made them feel.

-Actually reduces CORTISOL (stress hormone), which decreasing fight and/or flight response.


-Paraphrase, clarify, summarize or wonder out loud while matching their affect.

-It not necessarily about agreeing, it’s about trying to understand where they are coming from—and validating their experience (not belittling it).

-Step into the other person’s shoes.

-Once safety is created and you have buy-in, then comes the “teaching moment” opportunity.

-Only need to make 2-3 quick statements to validate/“echo-back” their experience.

Remember, we can't help others unless we remember to take care of ourselves first!

Please see the bulletin board in the staff lounge for self-care tips. Thanks for reading!