Year End Transition Strategies for Students with ACES
by Dr. Rick Robinson
I have visited a number of schools over the last month, collaborating with them on their implementation of trauma informed practices, or a “Culture of Care.” Teams have been working hard to both consolidate progress that has been made this year, and to outline next steps for the coming school year and the strategies they will use to implement them. Importantly, regardless of the specific strategies that are adopted, we think predictability and relational safety are the pillars upon which a Culture of Care rests, and provides the overall sense of well-being and safety students need to optimally develop.
It is inspiring to hear stories from educators regarding the engagement and connections they have developed with all of their students during the course of this school year. Their connections have lead to an understanding of their students that allows them to provide levels of predictability and relational safety necessary for growth in academic, cognitive, social and emotional domains.
While this process is important for all students, for those with history of Adverse Childhood Experiences, it strikes me as vital to attend to the knowledge gained this year so we can intentionally pass it to the caring hands of teachers, specialists and paraprofessionals who will serve these students next school year.
Here are some thoughts regarding bits of experience and knowledge that can maximize the chance for continuity in the safety students experience as the new school year begins.
• Strengths- (e.g. Math computation, 4-square, drawing horses): What strengths does the student evidence that can be used to help them approach challenges?
• Interests-(e.g. Trains, fashion, cats, NBA basketball): Are there ways we can a use student’s interests to increase the relevancy of academic content for them?
• Points of connection with the student-(e.g. Fishing, sewing, gardening, Harry Potter books): What are points of connection you share with a student that makes engagement smooth and easy and might help open up a dialogue on challenging issues?
• Soothing/regulation strategies-(e.g. Kinetic sand, reading, mazes, movement): What soothing or regulation strategies does a student seek out independently and can we find school-appropriate ways these strategies can be utilized.
• Engaging a student’s family and caregivers– During the school year your experience in strategies that are non-starters, or those that facilitate collaboration, may be vital for next’s years educators to hit the ground running with a student’s family and caregivers.
• Lagging skills- (e.g. Frustration tolerance, stamina, accepting feedback, understanding the perspective of others): What skills are underdeveloped and what are the demands or challenges they face that could overwhelm them? How does this help us endorse the Mantra, “Kids do Well if They Can?”
• Triggers-(e.g. Corrections, music class, competition, hunger): What events, settings, interactions, sensations have you seen that trigger a student, result in dysregulation?
• Emotional language- (e.g. Rate and depth of breathing, facial expression, body posture, muscle, tone of voice and quality of speech, mood, contact with others (withdrawn to reactive)): What cues do you look for to understand the student’s emotional state and well-being?
• Response to co-regulation– (e.g. Accepting or rejecting): How does the student respond to an adult’s attempt to help them regulate through relationship?
• Ability to initiate self-regulation strategies– (e.g. Proactively and productively utilizing calming spaces and regulation activities): How fluent is a student at identifying their level of dysregulation, initiating an appropriate regulating activity, regulating themselves, and returning to the classroom task or activity?