Heather Forbes

Last week, educators and caregivers flocked to Union High School Friday, April 6, where guest speaker Heather Forbes was teaching practical methods for dealing with severe behavior.

Forbes is the author of “Beyond Consequences,” a series of books on caring for traumatized children and is renowned as a leader in trauma informed education.

She spoke to more than 200 educators, parents, caregivers and childcare agencies at the event hosted by the Franklin County Resource Board (FCRB), that holds a spring and fall summit to train those who need guidance in how best to handle traumatized children.

Trauma informed care is based around five principles: safety, trustworthiness and transparency, choice, collaboration and mutuality and empowerment. These principles aim to help caregivers approach children who have experienced traumas like sexual assault, maltreatment, domestic violence, medical trauma and more, in the best way possible.

FCRB Executive Director Annie Foncannon, who organized the event, said Forbes offers practical ways for caregivers to work with their students.

“She is one of the foremost experts when it comes to working with kids who have experienced trauma,” Foncannon said, “How to recognize it, how it affects their brains and their behavior, what their triggers are and what to do to bring them back around to a state or regulation.”

Foncannon said educating caregivers about how to help children with severe behavioral issues through trauma-informed care is the best way to prevent further trauma, and curb a child back to “regulated behavior,” or behavior that is manageable.

She said in the past, children have gone mostly misdiagnosed and given the wrong treatments, which can create further trauma and further behavioral issues.

“It’s tremendously important. We have seen for generations have been mislabeled and misdiagnosed,” Foncannon said. “Most of the behaviors they were exhibiting were due to traumas that were never addressed.”

To date, Forbes’ visit is the largest spring summit the resource board has hosted. The training is important, Foncannon said, and she hopes the growth of these summits continues for the sake of treating children early on and preventing more trauma.

She said the training often focuses on the caregiver, reminding them to stay calm and regulate their behavior in order to regulate the childs.

“If we can recognize trauma for what it is early on, then we can get to the root of the issue and help that child regulate themselves by us learning how to regulate ourselves,” Foncannon said.

In the Union School District, there are nearly a dozen teachers who are trauma-informed certified. Director of Special Education and Student Services Missie Evert said that training helps those teachers educate students who have experienced trauma in the best way.

Evert said she was glad to see so many parents and caregivers at the event. She said the training that Forbes shared was practical and important.

When students come to school having experienced trauma, Evert said, it’s important that teachers approach them from an educated point-of-view. She said dealing with a student who has severe behavioral issues in the wrong way, can make them relive those past traumas.

“Our approach to that trauma is important, we don’t want them experiencing new trauma where they learn,” Evert said. “We have to always remember that behavior is communication and that they are trying to tell us something.”

Evert said she hopes more will attend the summits in the future and that more teachers in the district will become trauma informed.