Control, Predictability Can Help Counter Students’ Trauma, Research Finds

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Interventions that help students think flexibly and feel more control over their learning may help counter the effects of disadvantage and trauma, suggests emerging research at the International Mind-Brain Education conference here.

More than 1 in 3 U.S. children have experienced at least one major trauma—from abuse or neglect to the loss of a family member to death, prison, or drugs—by the time they enter kindergarten. By the end of their school years, nearly half have had at least one adverse experience. Children who have experienced such trauma are more likely to struggle academically, disengage from school, or show behavioral problems. Sarah Enos Watamura, an associate professor at the University of Denver who studies the effects of stress on learning, argues that schools can better support these children by understanding how problematic behaviors evolve, and how to help children protect themselves in healthier ways than they do now.

“There’s no ‘good brain’ and ‘broken brain.’ Kids are building brains and bodies that adapt to the circumstances they are in,” Watamura said. “It’s important to think about because if you’re trying to fix something that’s broken, or had been built incorrectly in the first place, your strategy would be different than if you’re trying to re-adapt the brain to a different set of constraints.”

For example, neuroscience studies have shown students who have been abused or exposed to violence in their family or neighborhood. . .

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