I have been posting some brain-based therapies that are beginning to have an impact in our programs that focus on children and teenagers who have experienced trauma or other adverse events, who are typically in a state of high arousal or hyper-vigilance. In Lakeside’s programs, students can use motion, rhythm, music, rocking and other options to help them self-discover how they can become calmer and more cognitive about what they are doing in school.
Change happens within relationships over time
Most causes of the adverse or traumatic events result from something that happened to the individual in the context of a relationship with someone. For example, the person could have been victimized by someone or witnessed a victimization. While certainly other natural or consequential traumatizing events could occur, there is usually some relational event that disposes students to a difficult brain state during much of their day.
It seems that if a relationship began a traumatization then restoring our students to wholeness should also include a strong relational component. It could be conceived as a relational redo–a “do-over,” if you will.
For a very long time, Lakeside’s programs have been very relational.
A daily academic schedule and opportunities exist for staff to interact at many levels with students throughout the day. Yes, largely our students are working in class with a very caring teacher, but they are also talking about life with counselors, problem-solving with behavior managers and having recreational time with staff. It is always so gratifying to see how students slowly engage into this process as they build trust with people that care about them.
When we add brain-based interventions and watch staff relate with students on a walking track, on a double swing, listening to music, and working through other brain-based strategies, there is an exponentially positive impact. Because the relational aspects are accompanying the interventions, there is a wonderful nurturing occurring that can be perceived and received more accurately by hyper-vigilant students. Too, the association of the relationship fosters a more calming and positive brain state for the student.
You may consider this effort as applying too much energy toward each student.
Unlike larger schools, we have the luxury of spending time with the students. However, what is helpful to realize, is that once these students learn that they are cared for and have the power to use varied tools through a day, they can do a lot to help themselves. Once learned, these strategies can be used wherever the student is. Sometimes, all that is needed is a small jump-start to help them see what is possible.
I believe that these types of brain-based interventions along with building better quality, (safe and empowering) relationships can have a huge impact on all students but particularly those with significant issues like hyper-vigilance. It is a true joy to watch students who typically cannot survive in a normal school environment embrace these strategies and the people around them. They become healthier and more productive.
It begins with relationships built on trust, which must be a part of their lives. We sort of double the positive affect when brain-based interventions are added. But most importantly, these students can begin to learn how to manage their own lives more effectively, which leads to a lifetime of personal growth and new opportunities for them. Isn’t that exactly what we are supposed to be doing for our children and teenagers?
I feel very privileged to see such positive changes happen each day. It is truly inspiring how our wonderful staff provides both relationships and strategies to our students.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network