As recently reported in the Washington Post,a new program dealing with trauma has started to successfully help its younger students, in one of their elementary schools, with the effects of the stress and trauma of living day to day with gun violence and poverty in inner city communities in Washington DC.
Washington DC schools have decided to deal with these issues after trying many other interventions with limited success to overhaul their low academic performance. In following the example of San Francisco, Boston, New York and Newark, who have been using a trauma sensitive approach to train students, parents, caregivers and school staff on the effects of trauma on brain functioning and learning, as well as tools to help the children calm down, become less prone to lashing out and more focused in the classroom. In their communities, these children are constantly exposed to incidents of drug and gang related shootings in their neighborhoods, causing them to live in fear and hyper-arousal, and/or having to deal with the many emotional effects of the stress of living in poverty. DC schools contracted with Turnaround for Children, (www.turnaroundusa.org) a group that provides training to schools to become more responsive to children affected by adversity and trauma. This group was founded by Dr. Pamela Cantor, M.D., a child psychiatrist studying the effects of the 9/ 11 attack in New York City and finding that these stress symptoms were clearly magnified on the children in the poorest sectors of the city.
It is easy to connect the dots between the inner city children of the USA adverse experiences, with the exposure to violence present often in the immigrant children coming to this country, in most cases escaping the violence in their own communities back home to find refuge here, or suffering the effects of the violence and dangers they encountered crossing the border. Thus, this population would benefit enormously from a program such as this one. Moreover, the teachers and parents/caregivers of these minors would profit as well from the training on how to best help them and create for them a safe and calm educational and home environment, sensitive to their needs. And, of course the school system would see a student better able to regulate their behavior and ready for learning.