Questions and Answers from Dr. Henson’s Recent Webinar

Questions (and answers!) from the Using Trauma Informed Care to Enhance Behavioral Interventions in Schools webinar 

by Dr. Will Henson

Thanks everyone for attending our webinar Why Aren’t Our Behavior Interventions Working?Below are a list of questions submitted to us before and during the webinar.  If you don’t see your question here it may have been similar enough to another one that I lumped it in with a different answer. You can also email questions to me at willhenson@drhenson.org.

Can you dive a little deeper into what co-regulation might look like in the classroom?

Yes!  And by this question, I am going to assume that you mean in the classroom with 25 other kidsaround and lots of things going on.  Co-regulation does not have to be a long conversation.  There are a lot of things a teacher will always be doing as he or she walks around the classroom to project a sense that this is a safe and calm atmosphere.  Simply speaking to a student in a regulated tone of voice during a quick interaction is a form of co-regulation.  So are non-verbal signals such as a thumbs up, a smile or nod.  You don’t need to and should not have to make co-regulation a long process.

I am wondering how this approach can be used with parents to reinforce new mindsets in both home and school settings?

Parents who have students that have experienced ACEs are often under a lot of stress.  They could very much benefit from understanding trauma-informed practices.   The people who interface with parents in schools such as administrators and counselors can help parents learn more about these.  I’ve personally met with many parents and they are usually quite receptive to trying something new.

How do you figure out what is causing the dysregulation? Most kids don’t tell us it’s “because I don’t like to get things wrong.”

The idea behind trauma-informed practices is less about figuring out the cause than it is building the resiliency within the student.  The reason I say this is that we all encounter ordinary frustrations.  Kids who have ACEs tend to overact to normal stressors.  Now it’s true that they may also have trauma triggers (an angry adult in their face being an easy one to predict).

Can you give a couple of specific examples of how to work with elementary students?

The younger the child, the more I work on establishing a sense of safety.  This is done by the way staff interact with the child in a calm and regulated manner. This does not mean I drop all expectations.   I seek to establish a relationship with the child and earn his (or her) trust.  I also focus more on establishing regular routines so the child’s day is predictable. I focus lesswith young students on talking through problems or teaching more cognitively based strategies.

Do you have any suggestions on how to convince non-believers that it is critical for SEL to be woven into the entire school day?  (not just a one-and-done intervention from the counselor).  There’s a reason that the football coach at the high school has the kids throw balls and run plays instead of reading football books. That’s because football is a performance and not a cognitive skill.  So are almost all SEL skills – so, it makes sense that kids are going to learn them through practice and repetition (with some coaching) not by reading a workbook.   Opportunities to practice target skills should be built into the day on purpose.

Follow up question: How do we make teachers understand that though?

This really makes their job easier.  Really understanding trauma-informed practices and doing them right creates fewer behavioral problems and increases instructional time.  I do it because it saves me time and headaches. If it didn’t, I would not do it.

What do the wellness rooms look like in schools?

Wellness rooms are rooms that kids go to in order to maintainregulation. They are not “red zone” rooms where dysregulated people go to calm down.  They are places kids want to go.  The rooms are staffed by a person – usually a paraprofessional but sometimes a school counselor (or similar title).  The rooms are purposefully very calming (soft lights, diffusers, etc..).  The student is run through their choice of certain regulating activities (usually 2) and checks in and checks out with a staff member.  Setting up one requires some guidance so please email me if you want more!

Are the wellness centers only for young children? What about the teens/middle schoolers?

Actually there are wellness centers in high schools, and even ones for staff.  They look different with more age appropriate activities (climbing walls, journaling etc..) but same concept.

I love the idea of 5-10 minute snippits for staff . . . is that something you offer districts that we could buy into?

Yes. My partner Dr. Skip Greenwood and I developed 321insight to provide bite-sized training for staff to access when they need it. 321insight has two online training toolkits- the Trauma Informed training series designed for all staff to develop a trauma-informed mindset and tools for action, and ParaSharp, designed to help paraeducators be more effective with students. More information can be found at www.321insight.com or by emailing info@321insight.com.  

Do you have any books or reading material that would help me understand regulation more, and how to teach it? Examples?

We have a ton of this stuff on 321insight, all distilled down to what staff need to teach it. (www.321insight.com) If you want more of the research, Polyvagal Theoryby Steve Porges will give you that.

Could you share any trauma informed practices that are targeted towards students of color. We are constantly looking for targeted interventions to address issues students of color often experience.

The manifestations of trauma are more or less universal and the core interventions (relationships, predictability, regulation etc..) are also, at least in my experience, also universal. Where people get into trouble is the details.   People from different cultural backgrounds may have different cultural concepts about relating to one another, about how or if they discuss emotions or feelings, what it means to be resilient, what’s shameful and what isn’t, what’s “normal” (etc..).   There is not an easy way to figure out that because someone is from X culture that they will benefit from Y intervention.  You have to keep your goals in mind of establishing a sense of safety and trusting relationships,

What does an interwoven trauma informed care curriculum look like?

I’m not familiar with that exact term but trauma-informed training for schools isn’t just a sit and get.  It has to be part of the way you do discipline, behavior support planning, IEPs, Social and Emotional Learning, MTSS, evaluation, and everything else.  It’s not truly interwoven until it’s part of all your practices.

Can we get a copy of the presentation?

Please email info@321insight.com if you’d like a copy of the presentation. The webinar recording was sent out in an email on 10/9. 

I have found that many of my students who struggle with dysregulation is that when they have negative behavior they are then being sent home for an out of school suspension at some point. How do you change the administration’s view on discipline? 

Trauma informed disciplinary practices reduces suspensions and expulsions.  Entering a disciplinary situation with angry or punitive adults is an easy trigger for dysregulation.  Administrators need to understand that changing disciplinary practices is not about dropping expectations or letting people “get away” with things.  It’s about doing discipline differently – not ignoring it.   Suspensions and expulsions don’t help kids with trauma. They don’t go home and reflect on what they did wrong.  A different approach is needed for sure!

Does Dr. Henson travel and present to school staff?

All the time!  You can reach me at willhenson@drhenson.org or through 321insight (info@321insight.com) and we can talk about what your district needs.  

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