In my last post, I talked about the importance of explaining trauma to our kids’ teachers and school administrators. Knowing what accommodation to ask for can be an essential part of a trauma-sensitive classroom. Here are some practical ideas for creative accommodations for kids who are dealing with the impact of trauma. Not all of them will work, and some of them you will have to tweak for your child’s particular circumstances. Use the list to spark your own ideas of what might help your child feel safe and able to learn.
- Preferential seating, whether that’s near the door to allow for breaks or at the back so the child can feel invisible.
- Prearranged or frequent breaks.
- Recording class lectures.
- Notetaker or photocopy of another student's notes.
- Early availability of syllabus and textbooks.
- Availability of course materials (lectures, handouts) on disk.
- Private feedback on academic performance.
- Time warnings before transitions to other tasks.
- Advance warning for changes in daily routine (field trips, fire drills, etc.)
- Safe ways to exercise control (choice of books, seats, etc.)
- Sensory calming tools (music through headphones, coloring pages, puzzles, calm corner in classroom, chewing gum, etc.)
- A mentor in the school who can check in with the student and/or provide a safe haven before a meltdown or behavior crisis.
- Give tasks or assignments one at a time to avoid overwhelm.
- Access to frequent snacks (preferably protein).
- Agreement not to call on child unless he or she raises hand in class.
- Allow student to move around as needed. Also consider movement braks for the entire class to avoid singling out one student.
- Allow to use a weighted lap blanket.
- Frequent checks for understanding without shaming or embarrassment.
- Exemption from participation in potentially traumatizing activities, such as active shooter drills, movies about traumatic events.
- Watch for signs of dysregulation and plan redirection techniques.
- Ask student to help another as way of building self-confidence.
- Alternate place to eat lunch or play during recess.
- Find ways to communicate to the child that many adults care about them and have their backs.
- Exams in alternate format (e.g., from multiple choice to essay; oral, presentation, role-play, or portfolio).
- Extended time for test taking.
- Shortened tests (such as only even numbered questions).
- Exam in a separate, quiet, and non-distracting room.
- Increased frequency of exams.
- Substitute assignments in specific circumstances.
- Advance notice of assignments.
- Written assignments in lieu of oral presentations or vice versa.
- Extended time to complete assignments.
- Temporary break from homework.
- Small groups for assignments.
- Assignments broken down into smaller projects.
- Reduce the amount of written work required.
- Homework to be done at school with support from teacher or aide.
- Give parents advance notice of homework and follow-up information.
This is not an exhaustive list, but just a way to spark your own creative ideas. Find techniques from friends, online groups, or parents’ associations. And if you have ideas or resources that I’ve missed, email me and I’ll include them in a future post.