Bristol Herald Courier August 2, 2018

Washington County Educators Seek to Better Handle Students' Trauma

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ABINGDON, Va. — There are millions of children across the U.S. who have experienced trauma, and Washington County Public Schools took a step Friday to address its students’ needs.

More than 700 Washington County educators gathered at Abingdon High School for a series of seminars designed to address what trauma is, its effects on those who experience it and how to handle it through mindfulness, lesson planning and classroom transformation.

Various experiences can be traumatic for a child such as abuse, loss of a loved one or drug abuse by family members, which is something many children experience as a result of the region’s ongoing opioid crisis.

The event was set up through the school district and mindSpark Learning, a Denver-based nonprofit that focuses on providing development and education to educators.

Last year, the school district held an event about developing school culture, and Superintendent Brian Ratliff said tackling trauma and social and emotional needs of students as well as education needs were the next steps.

Amanda Hogston, who teaches first grade at Watagua Elementary School, said she will definitely take some of the things she learned like mindfulness into her classroom.

Janet Lester, elementary school supervisor for Washington County who helped arrange the seminars, said the event was held so teachers can better identify and work with students who have experienced trauma.

“What we’ve noticed is younger and younger students are coming in, and they can’t engage, they misinterpret social cues, they don’t participate well in groups,” Lester said.

A 2011 and 2012 survey by National Survey of Children found that about 48 percent of all children across the U.S. have been affected by one or more adverse experiences.

According to the National Child Stress Network, the effects of trauma can manifest differently in children. While some may suffer few negative effects, others may develop symptoms such as stunted cognitive development that can cause children to have issues with learning and memory or cause them to act out. Others may develop post traumatic stress disorder or similar symptoms.