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Proper Trauma Therapy Could Help Children Succeed in School

May 03, 2018 - 10:17 am

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - Children who act up or misbehave in school are often labeled "bad" kids, but Leslie Wiss, director of informed trauma services at Great Circle, says it could be developmental trauma. The impact on kids growing up without being fed properly, who struggle from poverty, are abused or neglected, can result in stress that over activates the lower part of the brain.

“That stress response system has been so activated that they get stuck in that state of fight, flight or freeze, so that impulsiveness is them fighting. Circumstances look safe and familiar to you and I, but to them, because of their experiences, it’s activated their stress response system,” she says.

That also limits the child's ability to learn. Wiss says children experiencing trauma in the first four years of life are impacted most, but they can heal that trauma with alternative therapies instead of talk therapy, because talk therapy requires the part of the brain they're unable to use.

“Art therapy, theater, drumming circles, things that engage our students, our clients, in rhythmic, repetitive activities,” she says.

Wiss says school districts need to have the knowledge and tools to deal with developmental trauma because suspending kids is just further pushing them away, which never solves the problem.