Teachers in the UK get very little training if any at all, on attachment and the effects of early trauma, so its hardly surprising really that so many adopters struggle to get the needs of their children understood in school. So I’m always trying to find ways of helping school to understand and support my girls better. Can you imagine how excited I was when I stumbled across Adoption UK‘s magazine called Education Now. I was elated. I quickly purchased several copies for school and a copy for myself.
“Education Now takes a more in-depth look at education and the various ways parents and teachers can work together to create a successful environment for children who have suffered early trauma, abuse or neglect.”
I’ve never written a ‘book review’ so I’m not sure if there is a right or wrong way to go about it, but I love this magazine so much that I almost feel morally obligated to tell you all about it. So here goes.
The magazine is introduced by Adoption UK’s editor Karam Radwan. She talks about the effects of early trauma and neglect and goes on to talk about the impact of these and how it results in the child developing differently. A particular extract that I like is:
“Adopters and foster carers are nowadays taught about brain development and how to make up for early losses so they are able to parent their children therapeutically. That is helping the child to calm and regulate him or herself so they can deal with everyday situations without reacting in primitive ways of flight, fright or freeze.
It is obvious then that parents can come into conflict with teachers that may wonder why this child is any different, why they should do things differently for this child.
This magazine sets out to explain why things are indeed different and the type of strategies that can help this child or children to really move on from their past towards a much happier and emotionally stable future. These are strategies that could benefit a whole classroom or even school as it is based on providing a calm and safe environment for all.”
There is also then an introduction from Adoption UK’s Chief Executive Hugh Thornbery. Hugh talks about adoption statistics in the UK and how Adoption UK receive many calls from adopters seeking help with school related difficulties.
“For over 40 years, we at Adoption UK have been providing support to adoptive families through those who are the real experts – other adopters.”
Following this is a great article by Helen Oakwater. Writer, coach and adoptive parent herself, she talks about ‘Why are these children any different?’ she starts by saying
“‘Its ok, I know all about dealing with adopted children because lots of the children in this class have divorced parents’ replied a teacher when i attempted to explain my daughters unique needs due to adoption. Oh how I wish I’d had this magazine; one copy for her, one for the staffroom”
This is such a great article, perhaps my favorite, being an adoptive mother of a sibling group for 2 decades she has a wealth of experience to share. She talks about everything from how looks can be deceiving right through to challenging erratic behavior. She covers how a child’s view of the world is impacted by what she describes as ‘toxic parenting’. She has some great illustrations throughout her article as well as a very easy to understand explanation of how unmet early needs creates insecurities. Just like ‘Wall Demonstration’ shown on Adoption UK’s website.
Next is an article by Adoption UK’s editor and adoptive mother Karam Radwan, she talks about ‘A different kind of parenting’. Her article is very informative covering adoption process and some of the struggles that adoptive parents may face. She also talks about the effects of neglect and trauma and goes on to offer input on therapeutic parenting techniques and how and why they work.
“parenting and teaching a child can become very frustrating if after all your best efforts, attention and sympathy you are still confronted with a child who remains hostile and resistant or distant and disengaged.”
Then we have an article by the Chair of PACS (Post Adoption Central Support) Eileen Bebbington. She talks about ‘learning the language’. She talks about hyper-vigilance, and how children may be too scared to ‘show weakness’.
“This calls for ingenuity from teachers. Again, they can say to the whole class that you know some of them will find it hard to ask for help and see if they can come up with non-verbal ways to do it. Perhaps children could have a coloured card they can place on a table when they need help. Alternatively a code word.”
She talks about other language barriers that the children may present with and how this might look in a classroom environment. She also talks about school policy.
“These issues are so important that they need policy decisions at school level, not just by individual teachers”.
Next Dr Caroline Ross-McCall, an educational psychologist working for a London Borough, recently completed a doctorate which focused on the education of adopted children. In this article, Dr Ross-McCall summarises what would make a difference in they eyes of teachers and parents.
“A finding from this study was the call for the profile of adopted children in schools to be raised, so that there is greater recognition of their potential vulnerability and priority given to quickly identifying and responding to any needs that may arise.”
Following that is an article by experienced teacher and adoptive parent Sue Gott. ‘She draws on research into attachment, resilience and neurological development and the therapeutic approaches used in counselling to develop realistic classroom strategies to nurture and support the learning of children struggling with social, emotional and behavioral difficulties’. She uses ‘Demi’ as the name for the adopted child she refers to throughout her article. She talks about how star charts and conventional behavior management strategies didn’t work for Demi. She talks about how a ‘different way of teaching’ might offer opportunities to go back and fill the gaps. She talks about the benefits of Nurture Groups but also the reality that for some schools this is just not a financial option. I particularly like that she comments of the differences between chronological and emotional ages.
“For the child with insecure attachment difficulties recognition of emotional age is the key to effective differentiation and intervention. The phrase ‘Thinking Toddler’ coined by Caroline Archer, herself an adoptive parent, neatly sums up the discrepancy between chronological age and emotional age.”
Next is an article about supporting children affected by insecure and disrupted attachments, trauma and loss by PAC schools trainer Julia Clements. She explains the importance of nurture and structure for traumatised children. She gives lots of tips and advice on how to offer nurturing opportunities even things as simple as offering thick drinks to drink through a straw, or sucking a drink through a sports cap as these are known to soothe children. She also offers tips and advice on structure and boundaries and things as simple as sitting on the same spot on the carpet each day and visual timers etc. I particularly like her suggestions of Louise Bombers ‘Calm Box’
“A calm box is a tool that can be used by an adult that has established a good relationship with a child, once the adult is working well with a child, they may want to use a calm box to help the child to regulate their emotions. A calm box is a box with a lid which contains cards which outline simple activities which are known to reduce a child’s level of arousal and help them to feel calm again’
She then goes on to talk about sensitive issues that may arise with particular subjects, most are fairly obvious, baby photo’s and family tree’s etc but some are less obvious, for example some children with a history of abuse may feel uncomfortable changing for PE in front of others.
Next is an article by Louise Bomber, as a teacher and therapist she has worked in schools on many levels. She starts with thought provoking opening line.
“Have you ever been misunderstood or felt bewildered, suspicious, confused or frustrated well, this is familiar territory for the pupil who has experienced significant relational traumas and losses”
She talks about how a child that has suffered significant relational trauma and losses may view the world, there’s clearly a reason why she is so highly regarded in her field, she offers great insight in her article. Here are a few of my favorite lines.
“If the world was viewed through an insecure attachment lens anything can happen at anytime”.
“Pupils are not the same: each pupil is different in their developmental needs and therefore so are school staffs required and necessary responses.”
“Experience has shaped their world and influences the present as if the past were reality right now”
Next is another great article by Marion Allen, adoptive parent and educational consultant, this article is available online and can be read in full here “What you dont know will harm them”
Next Sue Clifford, adoptive mum of nine shares some of her experiences with her article ‘How to Avoid Triggering Trauma Memories’. she talks about the adoptive parents role in helping and supporting the teaching staff involved by helping them to understand the effects of trauma on the child’s development and helping them to see things from the child’s perspective, past and present. She also covered the curriculum and how some area’s may trigger trauma memories.
“History: The study of World War Two with stories of children being evacuated and move to other families resonates with children who have been moved from family to family with no control over what happens to them”
‘Working with parents’ is the next article by Sarah Allkins, Co founder of Chrysalis Associates, adoptive parent and former foster carer.
” To help a vulnerable young person in school, teachers and parents need to work together and understand each other”
She details some of the problematic behaviors that are presented in school and how schools need to work together with parents and find strategies that work. She details common danger area’s in schools such as ‘unstructured times’ and even gives examples of specific consequences that don’t work, and those that do.
Finally there is an article titled ‘Helping children to Start Again’ by play therapist, drama therapist and registered adoption support worker Joan Moore. She shares her top tips for teachers to help understand and work with children who have extra needs. She uses a great case study as an example of how engaging in play can help children. She talks about the difficulties children face in school and also cover’s the effects trauma has on development.
“Traumatised children are always ‘on guard’, their normality is a state of high arousal that leaves them unable to think straight, liable to misread a troubled expression on an adults face as anger and disapproval and suffering shame at her lack of control. Some dissociate but their suppression of feelings may only delay their return to equilibrium (Carroll 2001).”
I really don’t think my review covers just how great as resource this magazine is, the best way to find out for yourselves is to buy a copy or 10, and share it with schools in the hope that things will change. In fact I think ALL schools should have at least one copy!