What does trauma-informed mean?

Being ‘trauma-informed’ means that a person (or organisation) understands the impact of adversity and trauma on someone’s behaviour, learning and emotions. In schools and other educational settings, trauma-informed practice aims to increase recognition, realisation and the response of educators towards students who have experienced trauma or adversity (SAMHSA, 2014). Trauma and adverse childhood experiences include exposure to physical, emotional or sexual abuse, physical or emotional neglect, family violence or separation, or having an incarcerated parent or a parent with a mental illness. Childhood trauma and adversity can also include exposure to a natural disaster, bushfires or community violence, refugee or medical trauma, or grief and loss of a loved one. Childhood experience of adversity and/or trauma is much more prevalent than commonly thought.

What does trauma-informed ‘look like’?

There are many positive ways that schools respond to the impact that adversity and trauma has on children. For instance, it may be as simple as encouraging children interrupting in class to self-regulate by talking to them about what they are feeling, rather than chastising or punishing them for disruptive behaviour. A whole school approach to being trauma-informed means that the school and classroom level policies, practices and the overall culture are considered and, when necessary, revised to assist children and young people who have been impacted by adversity or trauma. Trauma-informed practice includes providing clear boundaries and clear communication of expected behavior but also a reduction in punitive responses to behaviour that does not fit with expectations or norms. This approach is likely to make a positive difference to all children in the school.