According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology, about 25% of children have experienced at least one trauma by age four. If left untreated, trauma can have continued, harmful effects on a child, says the American Psychological Association. These effects include anger, nightmares, and the development of new fears. Trauma can deeply affect how children behave and perform in school, resulting in reduced concentration and a decline in schoolwork. According to the Child Mind Institute, trauma-affected students can also experience difficulty managing their emotions as well as issues with executive functions such as planning ahead and thinking things through. Early treatment can help avoid and counter these effects, but what’s the best way to help students coping with trauma? The Trauma Smart program offers schools a path towards effectively identifying and treating trauma.

Helping Students Who Are Coping with Trauma

Trauma Smart was created in 2008 by Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City’s Crittenton Children’s Center. In a nutshell, Trauma Smart trains teachers to work with traumatized children and help them develop needed resiliency skills. These teachers can then instruct parents and other caregivers as needed. Their goal is to help educational organizations create supportive school communities with the knowledge they need to spot signs of trauma. Also, the school community will have the skills needed to assist and support children as well as their parents or caregivers.

How Does It Work?

The Trauma Smart model includes the following components:

  1. Trauma-informed care teams
  2. Trauma-focused staff and caregiver training
  3. Classroom coaching and skill-building
  4. Trauma-focused therapeutic intervention for children and families affected by trauma

There are three phases to the Trauma Smart program:

  1. The Planning Phase: The Trauma Smart team works with the school to develop a program based on a number of factors. These include budget as well as the number and type of personnel and students.
  2. The Implementation Phase: Trauma Smart trains the school’s personnel in ways to identify and work with children who have been affected by trauma.
  3. The Sustaining Phase: School staff are trained to teach new personnel these same methods. That way, the program can continue uninterrupted. There are also optional booster and continuing education classes available.

Support for Schools

The Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (SSAE) can help schools pay for Trauma Smart training. It operates through Section 4108 (page 178) of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). You can find more information about partnering with Trauma Smart, including their locations and forms, here.


Text by Bo King



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