Special treatment approach gives agency a new way of looking at old problems

Branching Out - St. Amelian

What’s wrong with you? vs. What’s happened to you?

Between these two questions is a variation of only two words, but when used as part of treating a child who has been exposed to trauma, that subtlety makes a difference. The latter represents a method that more and more providers believe is a better way to help individuals address their trauma and heal from it.

Called trauma-informed care, the approach focuses on understanding more about how an individual’s traumatic experience, ranging from divorce to death, impacts their physical, behavioral, social and emotional health. St. Aemilian-Lakeside is one of a growing list of agencies that has adopted the new philosophy.

St. Aemilian-Lakeside has shifted from a traditional approach, which focuses on the behavior resulting from the trauma, to trauma-informed care, which looks at what triggered the behavior in the first place. It has incorporated the approach throughout all ofits programs, which includes community-based and residential treatment for children and families struggling with behavioral and mental health issues.

Staff find out through trauma-informed care when the traumatic experience happened, for how long and how it has affected the brain. They then use certain techniques, called sensory interventions, to repair the parts of the brain impacted by trauma. Art therapy, yoga, drumming and even playing with pogo sticks and bouncy balls provide a calming effort that ultimately helps in the healing process.

Believing trauma-informed care provides a much more effective way of working with kids, the agency is conducting a study to determine just how much. The agency also has taken up the charge to educate others in the community – be it social workers, educators, civic leaders or caregivers – about the benefits of trauma- informed care. 

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Funding needs include:

$250 to purchase additional sensory equipment, such as pogo sticks and bouncy balls

$1,000 to train 50 parents, foster parents or caregivers

$10,000 to conduct additional research