Children, while growing up, may experience certain events and situations that could scar them for life. Due to an impressionable mind, the slightest hint of an imbalance in their immediate surroundings could affect their mental well-being. Intense and frequent arguments between parents, bickering among classmates, and even other simple things could have an adverse effect on them. Community violence or substance abuse by a parent could crumble a child’s sense of safety and well-being.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, childhood trauma is, “The experience of an event by a child that is emotionally painful or distressful, which often results in lasting mental and physical effects.”
SAS Counselor reaches out to elementary students in crisis
A student Assistance Services Counselor (SAS) in Ector County Independent School District (ECISD), Amanda Lopez, is instilling awareness among teachers and counselors on childhood trauma, and ways it can affect the brain and behavior of the affected children. She trains them in recognizing the signs and in understanding how it affects their behavior at school. Her approach is to dive deep into understanding what is going on in the lives of the children that is making them act in a certain way, instead of simply labeling a child problematic or grouchy.
Although children are resilient when it comes to processing and coping with tragedies, at times, they are unable to overcome certain experiences that leave them with an overwhelming sense of fear and loss, giving a sense of insecurity. Sometimes, these feelings could become so intense that their physical, emotional, social and intellectual developments can be impacted.
Children suffering from traumatic stress symptoms find it difficult to regulate their behaviors and emotions. They may be easily frightened, become clingy, inconsolable and/or aggressive and impulsive. They may suffer from sleeplessness, lose recently acquired development skills, and show regressive behavior. When trauma remains unaddressed for long, it can adversely affect a person’s quality of life.
There have been times when the reason behind a student being difficult in school was simply because he or she was hungry and after being handed a granola bar, he or she became more passive. However, other complex issues like homelessness, poverty, money and family concerns also affect the children Amanda sees. Around tests, children deal with a lot more stress. The fear and trauma for a child may be a real threat or a perceived one but that doesn’t take away the intensity of the feelings they experience.
Lopez, who got into counseling from her work with Child Protective Services, gained real-world experience on what some of the children were going through. These experiences were helpful in graduate school. She has undergone training from the National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children. Now, Lopez sees about 40 students a week from kindergarten through fifth grade. She shuttles between Buddy West, Noel and Zavala elementary schools although in times of crisis she may visit anywhere. A teacher or principal can refer students to her if they notice something amiss and they want the child to be checked further. Cases that are more serious are referred to outside resources.
Unaddressed trauma can have long-term effects
Children can experience some of the same symptoms as post-traumatic stress disorder even if they don’t have the disorder. If you or your loved one is suffering from any mental disorder, contact the mental health recovery helpline in Texas to access the best mental health recovery centers in Texas that specializes in evidence-based intervention plans. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-596-4708 or chat online to know more about mental health recovery in Texas.