We support families whose children have been affected by adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) which has resulted in developmental trauma. We also support the professionals involved with these families including the schools. We run a number of projects with families, professionals and schools to increase understanding of the children’s needs so that they can be better supported to survive and thrive and thus reach their potential. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on so many children, families, professionals and schools. We know that for some children and families this time has brought new or additional trauma and that it will continue to mean challenges for all involved. The support and training that we offer is now needed more than ever. We want to help children to survive and thrive through having better support from trained and knowledgeable parents/carers and professionals.
Children having ‘meltdowns’ in school have resulted in them being on the verge of exclusion or being sent to Specialist Teaching Facilities or Pupil Referral Units (PRUs). We have supported schools with children during our sessions and the staff have been amazed at how simple activities used in the right way at the right time can make a huge difference.
An example of the difference the work we do has made is a little boy, B, in the Reception class of a local primary school. He was very distressed one day and was not able to engage at all during the session. His little classmate/friend had been removed by Social Services from his family overnight due to physical abuse and B was really upset and missing him. His class teacher was also very upset by what had happened. B spent the whole session prowling around the edge of the group session and literally growling at times. When the session ended the staff took the rest of the group back to class and we kept B and his teacher back. We swung him in a blanket whilst we sang to him to provide some sensory regulation (vestibular input) and comfort/nurture. We then swaddled/wrapped him in the blanket and placed him on his teacher’s knee and gave him a Froob to suck through a curly straw whilst she cradled him (providing comfort, nurture and sensory regulation through proprioception and tactile input). He calmed and stilled and allowed his teacher to comfort him. The two of us running the project and the teacher were all in tears and so moved to see this highly distressed little boy finally become more regulated, calm and accept comfort, nurture and support; something that he rarely did. It was such a special moment and an oasis of calm and safety in this child’s otherwise chaotic life. School staff were then able to show his mum how to do the same. The staff can now use also these skills and strategies with other children as well as continuing to support B.
Child Z had been sent to the PRU but they had said he was too complex for them to manage. He returned to his mainstream school with 1:1 support but was struggling to stay in class and access his learning opportunities. We were able to support his staff and his grandmother/carer with ideas of what could help him.
Another example would be of training we recently ran for adopters and Special Guardians where we were able to show parts of recorded therapy sessions (with consent) to demonstrate skills and ways of supporting children that we had been talking about. This was so powerful and the parents really appreciated the chance to see the theory in action.
Our training in sensory regulation has been very well received so far and is meeting a previously unrecognised need. This training not only shares understanding and knowledge in relation to the children but also helps parents/carers and professionals to develop understanding of themselves and to encourage self-care to support their own mental health to enable them to continue to care for the children and be emotionally available to them even during stressful times.
We also run a number of projects including a small group intervention for Primary Schools based on Theraplay® Sunshine Circles, the Just Right State Programme - a Sensory Attachment Intervention for parents and children or schools, Sensory Regulation training for parents, practitioners and schools, PACE training and the Foundations for Attachment training course for adopters, SGOs and Foster Carers. We also host regular Peer Support events for professionals and practitioners to develop the capacity for developmental trauma-specific therapies in South Wales where there is a dearth of provision. The Local Authority where we are based has recently commissioned six of our sensory regulation courses for their staff.
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