Program helping students who have experienced trauma

Schools helping students who have experienced trauma

OTSEGO COUNTY, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) -- Schools across the state are getting involved in a program to identify and help students who have been through different kinds of trauma.

The Vanderbilt Area School is working on finding ways to help students who have had experiences that range from actual abuse at home, to exposure to drugs and alcohol.

Starting last spring, the school started training with researchers from Western Michigan University to identify students who have experienced trauma.

Superintendent Rick Heitmeyer says he realized right away that it was something he had been dealing with on a daily basis.

“When I first arrived here a few years ago, I was really surprised by the number of situations out there that I would call maybe ‘broken,'" Heitmeyer said. "Just families that were broken apart, drug abuse, alcohol abuse and it’s not a lot of families, but it was enough to say ‘Wow, what can we do to help these kids and help these families be successful?"

After teachers and staff learn which students are victims of any type of trauma, they're also getting trained to help them.

“With children who have experienced trauma, it’s hard for them to trust, it’s hard for them to believe that any adult would care because of some of the different experiences that they’ve had," Heitmeyer said.

Teachers at Vanderbilt say the training is already making it easier for them to help certain students academically.

“I think that this made it kind of all make sense and come together," said teacher Diana Respecki. "When we started talking trauma, there were certain kids that we could identify really easily and came to mind easily, but some of the kids we didn’t expect who need some extra help.”

“Just knowing that because 'student A' comes in acting a certain way, it probably isn’t always something that’s under their control," said Matt Saunders, another teacher. "They might have had an incident at home and they’re just, this is the way they’re expressing their frustration with that.”

Heitmeyer says this is another step towards all of his students achieving academic success.

“We say that we’re in education to educate all kids, and we need to find every bit of support out there that we can so we can build our tool boxes and truly support all kids," Heitmeyer said.

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