PTSD affects the Classroom

According to Stanford Children’s Health, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating condition that follows an event that the person finds terrifying, either behaviorally or emotionally, causing the person who experienced the event to have persistent, frightening thoughts, memories, or flashbacks.

What causes post-traumatic stress disorder?

The event(s) that triggers PTSD may include:

  • Something that occurred in the person’s life.
  • Something that occurred in the life of someone close to him or her.
  • Something the person witnessed.

A youth’s risk for developing PTSD is often affected by the following:

  • Proximity and relationship to the trauma
  • Severity of the trauma
  • Duration of the traumatic event
  • Recurrence of the traumatic event
  • Resiliency of the youth, the coping skills of the youth, and the support resources available to the youth from the family and community following the event(s).

The following are some examples of events where there is a threat of injury or death that may cause PTSD if experienced or witnessed as a youth or adolescent:

  • Serious accidents (such as car or train wrecks)
  • Invasive medical procedures (under the age of 6)
  • Animal bites (such as dog bites) 
  • Natural disasters or man-made tragedies
  • Emotional abuse, bullying
Who is affected by post-traumatic stress disorder?

About 4% of youth under age 18 are exposed to some form of trauma in their lifetime that leads to post-traumatic stress disorder.

What are the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder?

Youth and adolescents with PTSD experience emotional, mental, and physical distress when exposed to situations that remind them of the traumatic event. Some may repeatedly relive the trauma during the day and may also experience any, or all, of the following:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Feeling jittery or “on guard” or being easily startled
  • Irritability, more aggressive than before, or even violent
  • Avoiding certain places or situations that bring back memories
  • Problems in school; difficulty concentrating
  • Physical symptoms (such as headaches or stomachaches)

How Educators Can Help!

Teachers, counselors and other adults can use their discretion to help youth with PTSD by listening, connecting, modeling and of course teaching.

  • Teachers or adult school staff should provide students with an opportunity to share their experiences and express feelings or other concerns about their safety.
  • Convey interest, empathy and availability, and let students know they are ready to listen.

One of the most common reactions to trauma is emotional and social isolation and the sense of loss of social supports. This can happen automatically, without students or adults realizing that they are withdrawing from their teachers or peers, respectively.

  • Restoring and building connections promotes stability, recovery and predictability in students’ lives.
  • A student’s classroom and school is a safe place to begin restoring normalcy during a troubled time.
  • Through the eyes of youth, adults can identify the “systems of care” that are part of their everyday life, move from beyond the classroom and school to the family and then to other community.
Model Behavior

Adults can model calm and optimistic behavior in many ways, including the following:

  • Maintain level emotions and reactions with students to help them achieve balance;
  • Express positive thoughts for the future, like “Recovery from this disaster may take some time, but we’ll work on improving the conditions at our school every day;” and
  • Help students to cope with day-to-day challenges by thinking aloud with them about ways they can solve their problems.
  • To support the coping process, it is important to help students understand normal stress reactions.
  • School staff can help youth become familiar with normal reactions that can occur after a traumatic event or disaster and teach relevant coping and problem solving skills.

Source: Stanford Children’s Health –

Published by

Mr Resilience

I am an Correctional Educator with an EBD and LD special education background. I always look forward to working with challenging and at-risk youth. I love a good underdog story. Follow Mr. Resilience on Twitter @ResilienceNavi1

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