As you know, I have been writing on the topic of trauma in children in the past few posts. One reality that we face is that so many of our systems, organizations and professionals who deal with children are not trauma-informed. This can mean that we may not have the proper lenses for children who have been traumatized. In so doing, we may categorize or diagnose them incorrectly and place them in programs or situations that may not be relevant to their true needs.
Trauma Symposium held in Philadelphia
November 2, 2011, was a significant day in the City of Philadelphia. We were very privileged to be a partner with United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, St. Josephs University and Independence Blue Cross to bring Dr. Sandy Bloom and Dr. Bruce Perry to Philadelphia to spend time with almost 300 professionals who are a part of our care-giving community for children who are traumatized. It was truly an amazing experience.
Dr. Bloom who is an author, international speaker and practitioner on how we can build safe sanctuaries for our children in care was compelling in her presentation. She made a significant case for the harsh reality that trauma is both prevalent and pervasive in our cities. Further, Sandy helped all of us understand that trauma in children is not only a social-emotional problem but also a public health problem in America today. Dr. Bloom has been a fervent and inspiring advocate in her writings and training programs that have helped many programs become safe sanctuaries for children who have had some very difficult problems.
Following Dr. Bloom, was Dr. Bruce Perry, also an author, international speaker and a therapeutic trainer in some of the clinical and neuro-biological aspects of trauma in children, who addressed this professional community of caregivers. Dr. Perry presented the recently developed Neuro-Sequential Model of Therapeutics that he and his associates have developed at the Child Trauma Academy. This is a new way to look at a child who has been traumatized in which there is a mapping system for understanding how serious trauma has impacted the brain of a child. He also provided the attendees with some startling statistics on the prevalence and impact of trauma in the brains of our children. He included stories and factual information that many problems in our children are a result of trauma. So often they are misdiagnosed. A child may be labeled as a troublemaker, sick, learning-impaired, having a mental health disorder or even may be labeled a criminal. The power and impact of trauma in the brain of a child is often invisible. Caregivers who may not be aware of the impact of trauma will not have the capability or lens to evaluate a child in a trauma-informed way.
A new impetus within the Philadelphia community
This event was not just a symposium but a new impetus within the Philadelphia community. Our community of caregivers is postured to think differently about our children with new lenses for what they may have experienced in life. We are launching the idea of a new trauma triage concept that will be a part of our Early Childhood Education system so that we will be able to identify preschool-aged children who are displaying trauma symptoms.
If we can create a system of care that can diagnose, treat and deal with the impact of trauma in the preschool ages, we believe we will make a huge difference in the landscape and the emotional health of children and families in the City of Philadelphia. Perhaps this can become a replicable model for other cities and for our country. Needless to say, it has some exciting potentials for providing better care for thousands of children and their families. What a great opportunity for hope and healing!
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network