Understanding Trauma and Decline in School Grades
On September 20, 2012, I attended a course on Understanding and Treating Traumatized Clients. The course was taught by Dr. Maria Masciandaro, Psy.D. at the Paramus location of Care Plus, NJ-a mental health facility. While the course was designed for social workers, its content and presentation was relevant to me as an educator, and had important implications for parents which I would like to share with you.
Dr. Masciandaro discussed adult and childhood incidents of trauma: Single Incident Trauma such as accidents, natural disasters, loss of home, loss of job, and divorce. She discussed Chronic Inter-personal Trauma such as repeated childhood abuse, serious neglect, and emotionally or physically abusive adult relationships or environments. I would also like to add stroke, death of a close relative such as a grandparent, repeated bullying, and concussion to the list of trauma.
Dr. Masciandaro, trained in EMDR, emphasized the importance of Good Coping Skills in dealing with trauma, and how coping skills are rooted in early parent nurturing. She discussed Risk and Resilience Factors for PTSD(Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) ,the effect of Trauma on the Brain and the Physiology of the Stress Response. She discussed Trauma and Mental Health, the Effect of Trauma on tobacco, alcohol and substance use.
The class was shown a touching video, Color Red, filmed on a kibbutz in Israel where children were subjected to repeated air-raid drills. Then, they were trained to develop less fear and better coping skills through music, songs and body movements. Dr. Masciandaro also discussed and demonstrated specific therapeutic methods for treating patients who had experienced various degrees of trauma.
Why was this course designed for clinical social workers relevant to me as an educator? Dr. Masciandaro broadened my understanding of trauma, and increased my sensitivity to the more subtle signs of trauma in children and teens. When I receive a phone call from a parent asking for help because his or her child is failing several courses, I will now ask even more probing questions before setting up an academic tutoring program.
What are the implications of this course for parents? If your child is suddenly struggling in school, reflect, and ask yourself a few questions. Is it possible that your child’s motivation and grades showed a sudden decline because of Single Incident Trauma or Chronic Interpersonal Trauma? Become very tuned in to your child’s life in a very subtle way. Have your child’s eating or sleeping habits changed? Has he or she lost or gained weight? Has he or she become more reclusive or unusually moody? If you have answered yes to any of these questions, perhaps your child has been in a trauma situation. Check the prescription supply in your medicine cabinet. Seek professional help to assist your child with Resiliency and Coping Skills while you seek help in his or her academic subjects.
If you would like to discuss the above information, or your child’s motivational or academic issues, feel free to call me at 201-573-0377. If you would like to learn more about the courses , workshops and mental health services offered by Care Plus, NJ click on www.cpi-nj.org or call 201-265-8200.
Ronnie B. Silver, Director
Adelphi Home Tutoring and SAT Services