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Making Room for Trauma in the Inclusive Classroom

Thursday, March 10, 2016 | 12:00 AM

In the weeks and months after a traumatic event, children may experience distressing symptoms such as nightmares, agitation, sleeplessness, angry outbursts, physical ailments or difficulty concentrating. Children who exhibit symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) should be monitored closely in the classroom and offered support services when they are available. PTSD in children is an important issue for educators to understand in case they must make classroom accommodations or customize their lesson plans. Through an online Master of Education in Special Education program, special education teachers learn how to identify symptoms of PTSD in children as well as important methods for interacting with traumatized children in the classroom. Here are some ways to create an inclusive classroom and provide support for children with PTSD.

Maintain a consistent environment in the classroom

Consistency is crucial for children — especially for children who have been exposed to trauma. Consistency in routine and environment helps a child feel know what to expect, which can make him or her feel safe. Because spontaneous events, loud noises or unfamiliar routines may trigger a child with PTSD, teachers should maintain a calm classroom environment as much as possible.

Allow the child to make his or her own decisions as much as possible

Experiencing a traumatic event often leaves victims feeling powerless over their own lives. Whether they have experienced a car accident or a death, they may feel an intense stress or despair over the lack of control. Allowing a child to make as many decisions as possible—even small ones, such as when to take a break or whether to wear a coat—is one way to help a child with PTSD begin to trust his or her surroundings again.

Maintain communication with family members and extra support staff

Children with PTSD often benefit from working with trained therapists or other support professionals. As a special education teacher, you will be a vital part of your students’ support network. When working with a child who has experienced trauma, it is important to maintain an open line of dialogue with other professionals as well as with the child’s family. A child’s behavior in the classroom can provide clues about how a child is coping with the traumatic memory.

As a special education teacher, you will have a unique ability to create a safe and supportive environment for children with PTSD. An online master’s degree in special education can help you learn the necessary tools and methods to keep a variety of differently-abled students feeling engaged, productive and safe within the classroom.

Learn about University of Texas Rio Grande Valley online M.Ed. in Special Education program.


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