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Trauma as a Context for Bullying Amy Foster Wolferman, M.Ed. Institute for Educational Research and Service International Bullying Prevention Association.

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Presentation on theme: "Trauma as a Context for Bullying Amy Foster Wolferman, M.Ed. Institute for Educational Research and Service International Bullying Prevention Association."— Presentation transcript:

1 Trauma as a Context for Bullying Amy Foster Wolferman, M.Ed. Institute for Educational Research and Service International Bullying Prevention Association Annual Conference San Diego, California November 18 th, 2014


3 National Native Children’s Trauma Center Established in Fall 2007 to serve as a Treatment and Services Adaptation Center (Cat III) within the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN); Became Category ll Center in 2012 Mission: In respectful partnerships with tribes, NNCTC will implement, adapt, evaluate and disseminate trauma interventions to decrease the social, emotional, spiritual and educational impact traumatic experiences have on American Indian and Alaska Native children.

4 Agenda Define trauma and PTSD Discuss the relationship between trauma and bullying Review the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study and how it relates to bullying Discuss school-based prevention and intervention strategies

5 What is Trauma? A highly stressful experience which can result in lasting emotional and physical effects Usually in face of perceived threat to life, physical integrity, caregiver, environment The 3 E’s (event, experience, effect) Overwhelms capacity to cope Fight, Flight, Freeze (SAMHSA, 2014) 5

6 Trauma Types Acute Trauma A single traumatic event that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope Chronic Trauma Repeated, ongoing Complex Trauma Multiple and/or chronic, most often of an interpersonal nature and early life onset. These exposures often occur within the child’s care giving system (NCTSN, 2014)

7 A Range of Traumatic Situations Automobile accidents Life-Threatening illness Witnessing or experiencing community violence Natural disasters (tornado, house fire) Terrorism Traumatic death Physical, emotional or sexual abuse Abandonment Witnessing domestic violence Bullying Neglect Homelessness Living in a chronically chaotic environment Military deployment 7

8 Bullying as a Traumatic Experience Definition of trauma: a highly stressful experience in the face of a perceived threat to one’s self or to one’s physical integrity or to that of one’s family member, close friend, or environment (SAMHSA, 2014) Definition of bullying: repeated and intentional acts of psychological or physical harm involving an imbalance of power (Olweus, 1993)

9 Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Most of us react to trauma – survival mechanism – symptoms fade over time PTSD is a distress response experienced after exposure to a traumatic event(s), but it doesn’t go away Includes specific criteria 9

10 PTSD Criteria Exposed to a stressor Intrusion symptoms - re-experiencing Avoidance symptoms Negative impact on cognition and mood – changes in affect – dysregulation of emotions Changes in arousal levels - hyperarousal May include dissociation - numbing PTSD subtype for six years and younger DSM V

11 Perceived Triggers of Danger Reminders of trauma can lead to sudden fear Sights, smells, sounds Body’s alarm system - fight/flight/freeze Adults can unintentionally trigger children through harmless actions

12 (Pollack et al., 2000) Threat Appraisal and Detection in Traumatized Children

13 Bruce Perry – Child Trauma Academy Adaptive Responses to Trauma RestVigilanceFreezeFlightFight Hyper- arousal Continuum RestVigilanceResistanceDefianceAggression Disassocia- tive Continuum RestAvoidanceComplianceDissociationFainting Mental State CalmAlertAlarmFearTerror

14 Bullying and PTSD Study - students grades 8 and 9 (n=963) – Idsoe, Dyregrov & Idsoe (2012) For all bullied students, 27.6% of boys and 40.5% of girls had PTSD scores within the clinical range Those who both bully and are bullied had even worse symptoms Because bullying is ongoing and typically goes undetected, many children who are bullied can develop symptoms of PTSD (van der Kolk, Weisaeth, & McFarlane, 2007)

15 How Common is Trauma? 1 out of 4 children who attend school has been exposed to a traumatic event (NCTSN) Screening results indicate in some communities that 77% of children have been exposed to trauma (Morsette, et al, 2012)

16 Understanding Trauma It begins with the ACE Study The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the largest investigations ever conducted on the links between childhood maltreatment and later-life health and well-being.

17 Did you experience physical abuse? Did you experience emotional abuse? Did you experience contact sexual abuse? Was there an alcoholic or drug-user in your household? Was there a member of your household imprisoned? Was there a member of your household that was mentally ill, or did you have a depressed parent or institutionalized family member? Did you witness your mother being treated violently? Did you have a biological parent absent from the home? ACE Study Questions








25 ACEs and Bullying 41% of children who have had at least 3 ACEs demonstrate negative behaviors like bullying and arguing with their parents. As the number of adverse childhood experiences increased, the likelihood of adolescent violence related perpetration (including bullying) also increased. (Duke, et al., 2010) (Sacks, et al., 2014)

26 Children who are victims of trauma often have difficulty developing appropriate social skills and are thus more likely to become victims of bullying later in life (Randall, 2002) ACEs and Victimization Characteristics of victims of bullying can overlap with characteristics of children who have been traumatized, e.g. low self confidence, anxiety, fearfulness, sadness, withdrawn, poor social skills.

27 What Can Schools Do? Create safe places (physically and psychologically) for students to learn Implement Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) as framework for bullying prevention and trauma support efforts Don’t end with stopping bullying – follow up Screen for trauma symptoms Integrate tier 1, 2 and 3 level trauma interventions

28 TIER 3 Intensive, Individual Interventions Individual Students; Assessment-based; High Intensity; longer duration TIER 2 Targeted Group Interventions Some students (at-risk) High efficiency Rapid response TIER 1 Core Instructional/ Universal Interventions All students; preventive, proactive 80% 15% 5% PBIS, 2014

29 Universal Strategies: for ALL students Build positive, trusting relationships with students and families Create safe, nurturing environments Provide consistent, predictable routines Create clear behavioral expectations Collect data and monitor Universal screening Provide specific, positive feedback Teach expectations and social skills healthy coping skills/ resiliency bullying prevention Actively supervise Use consistent consequences that teach and are predictable Punishment vs Discipline

30 Teaching Social Skills Bullying Prevention Empathy Assertiveness Friendship skills Emotional regulation Anger management Social problem solving (Committee for Children, 2012) Trauma Treatment Affect identification Modulation Affect expression Problem solving Choice making Self development Self identity (Blaustein & Kinniburgh, 2010)

31 Blaustein & Kinniburgh, 2010 ARC Building Blocks Attachment Self- Regulation Competency Caregiver Affect Mgmt. AttunementConsistent Response Routines and Rituals Affect Identification Modulation Affect Expression Dev’tal Tasks Executive Functions Self Dev’t & Identity Trauma Experience Integration

32 Targeted Interventions: for SOME Intensive social skills instruction relaxation techniques, coping, anger management, assertiveness, empathy Check-in/Check-Out program Mentorship program Behavior Support Team Cognitive Behavioral Interventions for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) groups

33 Individualized Interventions: for a FEW Individualized plans to address individual symptoms (aggression, impulsivity, short attention span, social isolation, etc.)…using…. Functional Behavioral Assessment Trauma focused individualized counseling or therapy Trauma-focused CBT Behavior support team connects student to counselor or therapist, works with family

34 Supporting Staff Behavior Supporting Student Behavior SYSTEMS PRACTICES DATA OUTCOMES Supporting Social Competence and Academic Achievement Supporting Decision Making PBIS, 2014

35 Some Good News: Resilience Resilience….the ability to recover from traumatic events... the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of threat (APA) The natural ability to navigate life well (HeavyRunner & Marshall, 2003) Research has shown that 2/3 of children who experience adverse childhood events will grow up and “beat the odds” (Michenbaum, n.d.)

36 Resilience

37 Contact Information Amy Foster Wolferman Institute for Educational Research and Service The University of Montana Missoula, Montana (406) 243-5417

38 References and Resources American Psychological Association (n.d.). FYI: Building Your Resilience. Retrieved November 3, 2014, from Blaustein & Kinniburgh (2010). Treating Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents: How to foster resilience through Attachment, Self-Regulation, and Competency. New York, NY: Guilford Press. Committee for Children (2012). Bullying Prevention in Schools Starts with Social-Emotional Learning. Retrieved October 10, 2014, from pdf DSM-5 Criteria for PTSD. (n.d.). Retrieved October 7, 2014, from Duke, N., Pettingell, S., McMorris, B, & Borowsky, I. (2010). Adolescent Violence Perpetration: Associations with Multiple Types of Adverse Childhood Experiences, Pediatrics, Retrieved October 25, 2014. from

39 Photographs retrieved from: HeavyRunner, I & Marshall, K. “Miracle survivors”: Promoting resilience in Indian students. Tribal College Journal. 2003;14(4):14–19. Idsoe, T., Dyregrov, A. & Idsoe, E.C. Bullying and PTSD Symptoms, Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. 2012; 40(6); 901-911. Michenbaum, D. (n.d.). How Educators Can Nurture Resilience in High-risk Children and their Families. Retrieved September 18, 2014, from Morsette, A., van den Pol, R., Schuldberg, D., Swaney, G., & Stolle, D. (2012). Cognitive behavioral treatment for trauma symptoms in American Indian youth: Preliminary findings and issues in evidence-based practice and reservation culture. Advances in School Mental Health Promotion, 5(1), 51-62. References and Resources

40 National Child Traumatic Stress Network, Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Pollack, S., Cicchetti, D., Hornung, K. & Reed, A. Recognizing Emotion in Faces: Developmental effects of child abuse and neglect. Developmental Psychology (2000); 36 (5): 679-688. Randall, P. (2002). Bullying in Adulthood: Assessing the Bullies and their Victims. New York, NY: Taylor and Francis, Inc. Sacks, V., Murphey, D., & Moore, K. (2014). Adverse Childhood Experiences: National and State Level Prevalence. Research Briefs. Retrieved October 10, 2014, from adverse-childhood-experiences_FINAL.pdf adverse-childhood-experiences_FINAL.pdf References and Resources

41 Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, Office of Special Education Programs, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4884. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014. The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, Thorman, I., A, D., & E, I. (2012). Bullying and PTSD Symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 40(6), 901-911. van der Kolk, B. A., Weisaeth, A. C., & McFarlane, L. (2007). Traumatic stress: The effects of overwhelming experience on mind, body, and society. New York: The Guildford Press. References and Resources

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