The Educating Traumatized Children Summit had Ross Greene, Ph.D. as the keynote. He was interviewed by Julie Beem of the Attachment Trauma Network (ATN). Dr. Greene is the author of The Explosive Child and Lost at School, Lost & Found and Raising Human Beings. He's the originator of the Collaborative and Pro-Active Solutions (CPS) model. I’d heard his name from some of the teachers in my life, but I’d never heard him speak.
I’ve summarized, paraphrased and quoted a few of the things he said though I changed some of the sequence in which they were said. There's an audio replay as well. I listened to several of the ATN summit series and learned a ton about what making schools more trauma-informed.
Notes & Quotes from Dr. Ross Greene Educating the Traumatized Child Education Summit by the Attachment & Trauma Network
For a very long time, we’ve thought that children’s misbehavior was the result of poor motivation. With what the research (over 40-50 years) shows is that ”kids with chronic behavior problems are lacking skills not motivation and need interventions that are not oriented towards improving motivation (time outs, stickers, detentions, paddling).
These don't help, he said, because kids need help solving the problems causing their challenging behavior.
He said behavior problems are the result of a kid facing expectations that outstrip abilities.
He spoke of the “spare the rod and spoil the mentality” many of us come from and the fact that the United States “incarcerates more people than any other country on earth."
He said that the kids repeatedly suspended, expelled or put into treatment facilities are not being served and are also the most expensive.
He noted the financial cost, but the bigger one - “losing a kid.”
He said how the research shows kids are lacking skills and how none of it shows they just “prefer doing poorly.”
He said that what “gets done to kids” who are having trouble meeting expectations is “unconscionable.”
Responding with “punitive interventions,” don't address root issues.
“It’s the same 10 to 20 kids who are on receiving the end of detentions, suspensions. They keep getting it over and over,” he said, which is “proof that it’s not working.”
The same kids are becoming the most expensive in school and issues aren’t being addressed. Instead, the skills that are lagging have to be identified he said and then pro-actively and collaboratively solved.
Often, he said, the more extreme behaviors such as "biting, screaming, throwing” don't "elicit empathy from us." For many, it is "easier to respond in empathetic ways to ones crying, sulking, withdrawing” because it’s less scary or threatening.
However, he said, both groups of kids are exhibiting the same inability to match skills to expectations and are deserving of the same consideration.
What they share, he said, is relying on “relationship building” and “problem-solving.”
He spoke of his time earlier in his training when doing in-patient psychiatry. He recalled a kid was put in a seclusion room to “calm down” when he freaked out. It was later discovered this kid had a trauma history which had happened in a closet. Obviously, seclusion wasn't beneficial for him. “This is what I would call re-traumatizing the already traumatized,” he said.
“Kids with a trauma history doesn’t need to be hit or pinned to the ground," and yet, still, in 2017, "in 19 different states, kids can still be hit."
Also, he said, "Hitting is also very popular at home. In U.S., we have yet to ratify policies against spanking.”
“Kids with trauma history don’t need more punishment, and quite frankly they don’t need more stickers.”
What they need, he said is "to be heard" and for their concerns to be "clarified, understood, validated and addressed."
A kid with a trauma history needs "their voices to be heard more than any of the rest of us do," he said, but "the reality is we all want our voices heard and we all want our concerns addressed.”
Other things he mentioned as helpful are:
- Not having concerns swept under the rug.
- Agency, which he described as having "some control over one’s life."
He spoke about how kids with a trauma history can either feel powerless or can “overdo it” in the power direction.
Both Julie Beem and Dr. Greene noted that many adults struggle with the same issues and same history of trauma.
Adults with a trauma history are also in the school system. In fact, Julie Beem talked about how when the ATN gives workshops in schools, they routinely talk about ACEs and do the ACE test.
They spoke about how carrying trauma as adults also impacts parents and parenting. I couldn't help but think of how punitive our approaches have been to parents as well who lack skills that match expectations and the needs of children.
Although I don't believe Dr. Greene uses the ACEs study or ACEs science in his own work, it's clear that the CPS model and trauma-informed and self-healing communities share similar principles.
Anyhow who says, "re-traumatizing the already traumatized," sounds a lot like Jane Stevens to me and that's a good thing. Stevens is founder and publisher of ACEs Too High and ACEs Connection.
Here, for more on the Attachment Trauma Network (ATN) and the little time left for this summit.