Friday, May 2, 2014

Childhood Trauma: Impediments to Learning

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
The Learning in Afterschool & Summer project is dedicated to ensuring that afterschool and summer youth programs are strong places of learning. To this end, we are promoting five important principles of learning that should be evident in all youth programs. 

However, it is also important that practitioners understand not only what promotes learning but the environmental factors that impede learning. These factors are related to complex trauma - children who have experienced physical or sexual abuse, abandonment, domestic and neighborhood violence, and/or having a parent or close family member incarcerated. 

"In the brains of traumatized youth, neural pathways associated with fear and survival responses are strongly developed, leaving some children in a state of hyperarousal that causes them to overreact to incidents other children would find nonthreatening, the research shows. Consumed by fear, they find it difficult to achieve a state of calmness that would allow them to process verbal instructions and learn, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris
And many children are experiencing chronic stress, according to data. In 2012,
California child welfare agencies received 487,000 reports of child abuse and neglect. Nationally, an estimated 1 in 4 children has witnessed a violent act and 1 in 10 has seen one family member assault another, according to the federal National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence, sponsored by the Office of Juvenile Justice Prevention and Delinquency Prevention and the Centers for Disease Control." (1)

According to Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, Pediatrician at the Bayview Child Health Center in San Francisco, children who had four or more categories of adverse childhood experiences, “their odds of having learning or behavior problems in school were 32 times as high as kids who had no adverse childhood experiences”. (2)

We will explore some of these learning impediments in upcoming blog posts by citing important literature and featuring interviews with field experts. 
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(1) School Promoting 'Trauma-Informed' Teaching to Reach Troubled Students; Adams, Jane Meredith; December 2, 2013; http://edsource.org/today/2013/schools-focus-on-trauma-informed-to-reach-troubled-students#.Up-6QmRDvJ4

(2) The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study — the largest, most important public health study you never heard of — began in an obesity clinic; Stevens, Jane Ellen; October 3, 2013; http://acestoohigh.com/2012/10/03/the-adverse-childhood-experiences-study-the-largest-most-important-public-health-study-you-never-heard-of-began-in-an-obesity-clinic/

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