Facts About Students Trauma


Please read the entire lesson and prepare to take a quiz.

One out of every four children attending school has been exposed to a traumatic event that can affect learning and behavior. Trauma can impact school performance in several ways:

  • Lower GPA
  • Higher rate of school absences
  • Increased drop-out
  • More suspensions and expulsions
  • Decreased reading ability

Trauma can also impair learning. Single exposure to traumatic events may cause jumpiness, intrusive thoughts, interrupted sleep and nightmares, anger and moodiness, and social withdrawal—any of which can interfere with concentration and memory. Chronic exposure to traumatic events, especially during a child's early years, can:

  • Adversely affects attention, memory, and cognition
  • Reduce a child's ability to focus, organize, and process information
  • Interfere with effective problem-solving and planning
  • Result in overwhelming feelings of frustration and anxiety

Traumatized children may experience physical and emotional distress, such as headaches and stomachaches, poor control of emotions, inconsistent academic performance, unpredictable and impulsive behavior, and over or under-reacting to certain stimuli. They may also have intense reactions to reminders of their traumatic event, such as thinking others are violating their personal space or blowing up when being criticized or teased. They may also resist transition and change.

To help a child who has been traumatized:

  • Follow your school's reporting procedures if you suspect abuse
  • Work with the child's caregiver(s) to share and address school problems
  • Refer to community resources when a child shows signs of being unable to cope with traumatic stress
  • Share Trauma Facts for Educators with other teachers and school personnel

To support the child:

  • Maintain usual routines to communicate the message that the child is safe and life will go on
  • Give children choices to help them feel safe by providing some control
  • Increase the level of support and encouragement given to the traumatized child
  • Set clear, firm limits for inappropriate behavior and develop logical consequences
  • Recognize that behavioral problems may be transient and related to trauma
  • Provide a safe place for the child to talk about what happened
  • Give simple and realistic answers to the child's questions about traumatic events
  • Be sensitive to cues in the environment that may cause a reaction in the traumatized child
  • Anticipate difficult times and provide additional support
  • Warn children if you will be doing something out of the ordinary
  • Be aware of other children's reactions to the traumatized child and the information they share
  • Understand that children cope by re-enacting trauma through play or interactions with others

It's also important to be sensitive if the child experiences severe feelings attributed to a higher power and to refer them to appropriate support without engaging in theological discussion.


The National Child Trauma Stress Network. (2008). Child TraumaToolkit For Educators. Retrieved from www.nctsn.org

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