One of the unique opportunities we have at Lakeside is to pilot new therapeutic ideas in any one of our four schools. Our schools are holistic in nature—we offer academic, behavioral management and clinical services to our students. We serve over 30 regional school districts by helping students who have struggled to succeed in their districts to find new paths to success.
Educators especially need to understand a child’s brain neuroscientifically
Most recently, Lakeside added some very significant interventions students may choose as options to help themselves. They can use these options to help calm and become better able to understand, study, learn and concentrate while being more in control behaviorally.
So many of our students suffer chronic stress from home-lives, traumatic events or other related incidents. Because of intense stress that has critically affected the student, he or she will exhibit consequential unpredictable or demonstrative behaviors. These teenage behaviors may sometimes be interpreted as oppositional and/or rebellious; however, in many instances, what we are really witnessing is the student’s attempt to regain control. It is the student’s way of attempting to survive the situations in which they find themselves.
What we know from significant research like the Adverse Child Events research and current neuroscientific evidence is what happens to a child during his growth and development has continuing impact to his life as an adult.
The more such stress and trauma occur, the more incapable a student may be to cope with the demands of school. Therefore, when we put students who are hypervigilant into a traditional school setting, they tend to mask their brain state with unpredictable behaviors. As a result, they present a host of related academic problems (such as appearing incapable of learning) because their brains are in a high alert state.
Be a trauma informed advocate, especially if an educator.
School administrators and teachers who are uninformed about the neuroscience of a child’s brain are at a huge disadvantage in how to deal with student’s demonstrative issues.
I recently heard a story of a teacher with a student labeled on the autism spectrum, but once she learned the student experienced had witnessed the violent death of a family member, she completely changed her opinion of the student because she understood how trauma impacts children’s lives.
It is important that we think seriously about our school environments.
Often we are isolating, disciplining, punishing and sometimes suspending students who are dealing with a brain state that is much beyond their control.
Rather than struggling to motivate these students, our strategies need to change. We need to teach our students who are chronically in a high alert brain state how to self-regulate and find ways to cope with their thoughts, emotions and situations.
It means that if we are serious about helping all students succeed in 2014 that we need to rethink our school environments.
At Lakeside, we are offering students new choices and options for calming themselves in those intense emotional moments. We offer swings, weighted vests and blankets, student chairs that rock, soft items to squeeze, appropriate chewing devices, walking tracks and specially designed environmental music.
In fact, with the help of our music therapist, Joe Hesh, we have designed music for varied parts of the school day just to help our students transition, study and calm their brains. It is an exciting approach that encourages students to take responsibility for their own brain state.
Even though it takes some time away from the student’s day to participate in interventions, it provides a powerful impact to their brain state. It is beneficial they take ownership of their emotional state and determine which interventions will help them be productive. It is a personal growth step that we all should be doing for those moments in life when we feel out of control.
I am going to be writing about our new line of brain-based and trauma-informed music in my next few posts.
This is just one of our strategies that we plan to make available to schools, residential facilities and homes. Stay tuned for more information on this exciting development.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network