Childhood Trauma: The Facts

Almost half the nation’s children have experienced at least one or more types of serious childhood trauma, according to a new survey on adverse childhood experiences by the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH). This translates into an estimated 34,825,978 children nationwide, say the researchers who analyzed the survey data.

Childhood adversities increase as a child grows older, and decrease as family income rises. Nevertheless, ACEs are still experienced by more than one in three children under the age of six.  Even in higher income families, more than one in four children have ACEs.

Children who experience fear as a way of life operate in survival mode and are unable to regulate their heightened levels of arousal and emotional responses.  Many factors influence individual reactions to stressful events, making behaviors and responses appear unpredictable or explosive.

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Impact on Learning

This toxic stress – the kind that comes from living with a physically and verbally abusive alcoholic parent, for example – damages the function and structure of a child’s brain. Toxic stress floods the brain with stress hormones. When a child is in "fight, flight, or freeze" mode, their thinking brain is offline and doesn’t develop as it should.

Kids experiencing trauma act out. They can’t focus. They can’t sit still. Or they withdraw. Fight, flight or freeze – that’s a normal and expected response to trauma. So they can’t learn. Their schools respond by suspending or expelling them, which further traumatizes them.

Recent research findings reveal almost half of the nation’s children have experienced at least one or more types of serious childhood trauma. It’s hardly a wonder that educators have difficulty in helping children focus and engage in our classrooms.

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The Solution? Trauma-Sensitive Teachers

Classroom teachers who learn the skills and techniques that counteract and defuse trauma can help children succeed academically, socially and emotionally.   These techniques are not an add-on to your existing curriculum, but rather the framework within which we make instruction easier to deliver, reduce interruptions, foster better student behaviors and build student self-efficacy and academic growth.

Interactions with the teacher, peers, and other school personnel all affect the child who has toxic stress.  How those interactions play out depends entirely on the social-emotional skills and understanding of adults and the coping skills of the child.  Teaching all children effective coping skills and training all school personnel how to respond to children under chronic stress is necessary to proactively offset detrimental behavior patterns and build positive relationships.

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Since 1993

Set up your next school year for high-powered student success!


Implement practices that will transform your classroom for you and your students.  Trauma-sensitive schools and classrooms turn at-risk students into solid achievers, boost student self-efficacy, and dramatically reduce disciplinary actions for poor student behaviors.

Teachers, principals, aides, monitors, bus drivers, and cafeteria staff all have an impact on our children and training all school personnel can provide unique opportunities for a child to overcome the barriers in their day-to-day experience at school.

White Waves Education Consulting provides the staff development workshops, school visitations, and progress-monitoring that helps transform a struggling low-achieving school into a high-achieving, supportive and joyful environment for learning.  For more information on training and site visits, contact us at

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Next Steps...

Call now to start your next school year with targeted training and positive student results.  Ask for Susan at White Waves Education Consulting at 716-440-4189.