Trauma Informed Care
By: Vickie Cartwright
Trauma is an event that happens in a person’s life, how the person experiences the event, and the long-lasting effects of the event on the person. Trauma is often thought of as a big event, like sexual or physical abuse, severe neglect, witnessing violence, or natural disasters. However, trauma is also the result of events that might be considered small, but add up to having the same impact as a big event of trauma. These “small” events may be bullying, loneliness, loss of caregivers, not having what non-disabled people have, labels, and changes – both good and bad. Trauma can impact people of all ages, races and cultures. Trauma impacts peoples with and without disabilities. Unfortunately, people with disabilities are often more vulnerable to trauma, because they are dependent on caregivers and vulnerability may come with their disabilities.
As awareness of trauma has increased, awareness of the effects of trauma has increased. In the past, “behaviors” were labeled as aggression, seeking attention, or manipulation. Quite often, these behaviors were described as happening “for no reason.” Trauma Informed Care has taught us that trauma (big or small) changes the development of the brain. Children who grow up in environments with trauma develop brains that are “programmed” to be quick to respond to their environment in fight or flight mode. Because their brains have developed this way, these individuals continue to respond to situations in fight or flight mode – even when there doesn’t appear to be a reason to those around them.
The good news is that these individuals do not have to continue living with the effects of trauma. Trauma Informed Care teaches that brains can be reprogrammed by changing the environments people are in. Instead of responding quickly to aggressive behavior with physical restraints, we now avoid restraints as much as possible and focus on discovering and addressing the issues that trigger the aggression. Instead of confronting manipulative behavior, we focus on helping people feel safe. Instead of ignoring attention-seeking behavior, we focus on helping people gain positive attention by living active and productive lives. As we focus on helping individuals with trauma feel safe and loved, we see evidence they are happier and more satisfied with their lives. We also see their “behaviors” are much less likely to happen. Supporting individuals with disabilities in the ways that they want and need to be supported is what we strive for every day here at Allen County Board of Developmental Disabilities.
If you are worried about the care or wellbeing of an individual, please call our 24-hour Crisis Intervention line, (419) 302-8825.