Our Trauma Informed Approach
"Behaviour is communication. Behaviour adapts as a result of experience. Through accepting the child and dismissing shame, we build secure relationships with the child, and so increase children's ability to regulate. We are adults who want children to succeed. We want them to feel safe and feel wanted. By using the strategies outlined in the relationship policy, we can achieve this."
Trauma informed is not what we do, it's who we are
Our approach is centred around building positive relationships and nurturing environments which support children to become safe, seen, soothed and secure.
We want to use the opportunity of everyday interactions with children to build positive pathways in the brain; to give children the skills to become emotionally regulated, solve problems and develop a positive sense of self.
To achieve this, we use a three pronged approach:
- We use our understanding of child development and the brain through the neurosequential model and sensory systems to help us to give meaning to the child’s behaviour or response.
- We consider the context of the individual before their actions.
- We then use a therapeutic approach to respond to that child in a way which shows acceptance.
Our journey began around 4 years ago as we looked at the lasting impact that our more traditional behaviour policy was having on the children within our school. We asked ourselves 4 key questions:
- Was a traditional behaviour policy having a positive impact on the development of our children?
- What did our children need in order to become safe, seen, soothed and secure, and to form a positive self image?
- How and what needed to change?
- How can our vision be portrayed through our approach?
Upon reflection and further research, we found that a 3 strike system which used extrinsic rewards and un-related sanctions, such as stickers and 'names-on-the-board', created shame, blame and resentment for children. These kind of policies did not support our vision, promote intrinsic motivation or build secure relationships.
We wanted to ensure that children were equipped with the skills to lead a successful life.
We then considered the next 2 questions and looked to professionals, research papers, related texts and various other avenues which we felt could support us in developing a new way of thinking which was in line with our vision.
We want children to be emotionally intelligent and empathetic and to build the essential skills to lead a successful life. This can only be achieved through relationships.
For more information about our approach, please contact:
Mr Tomlinson on email@example.com
Approach - Body before brain
Child development is at the core of what we do. We are able to relate all of our understanding back to brain science.
The Neurosequential Model (developed by Bruce Perry, 2006) put simply, tells us that the brain develops in stages from the bottom up.
We think of the brain in 3 different areas which develop in sequence.
1. Brainstem - Responsible for basic bodily functions: breathing, heartrate.
2. Limbic system - The lower part of the brain, responsible for our fight or flight responses as well as our attachment and emotional development.
3. Cortex - The upper part of the brain, responsible for higher order thinking such as problem solving, emotional regulation, cause and effect thinking and impulse control.
Dan Siegel's hand model of the brain helps to explain what this looks like.
Connections within the brain grow through experiences, both positive and negative. The brain will adapt to it's surroundings. If a child has missed experiences then development will be impacted.
We compare this to building a wall. If the foundations of the wall are not secure then it is more difficult for the wall to stay stable and, in turn, more difficult fill the gaps later down the line.
What does it look like in practice?
Our approach is a way of being. It is how we interact and build meaningful and nurturing relationships with the children.
P.A.C.E (Dan Hughes) is a way of thinking, feeling, communicating and behaving that aims to make the child feel safe. It is based upon how parents connect with their very young infants. As with young toddlers, with safety the child can begin to explore and feel secure in themselves.
P - Playfulness - When appropriate, approaching interactions with playfulness shows children that
A - Acceptance - We accept the child at all times but not always the behaviour
C - Curiosity - We show curiosity and wonder why incidents or dysregulation might occur
E - Empathy - Having empathy allows us to connect with the child and attune to their needs
More information about PACE can be found here.
Using our understanding of P.A.C.E, we always have the individual and their context at the heart of our interactions and discussions. We consider their individual traits; accepting them as an individual but not necessarily accepting their actions.
To structure our discussion when considering the child, we create a Child in Context Profile.
Following training and information from Sarah Lloyd, The BUSS Model, JABADO and a range of other sources including BAPT Play Therapist Diane Doyle, we have developed a selection of key sensory movement activities which children may use to support their physical regulation. These activities are key before attempting to regulate emotions.
Although we do not use sanctions or individual rewards, we do set clear, strong and consistent boundaries. Boundaries help children to feel safe and secure. They show the child that the adult knows what they are doing and that they can be looked after. We set these boundaries using our 3 school rules.
- We are kind and friendly
- We keep ourselves and others safe
- The adults are in charge
Shame and Blame
We want to move away from the negative impacts that shame and blame have on our children's internal working model. Brené Brown provides us with a great video on the impact that blame can have.
By using the HEART approach, we can move children away from The Shame Spiral and help them to build a positive self image.