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Creative Therapies for Complex Trauma – Book Review

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From the Cover of Creative Therapies for Complex Trauma: Helping Children and Families in Foster Care, Kinship Care or Adoption edited by Anthea Hendry and Joy Hasler:

“A burgeoning evidence base supports that arts, play and other creative therapies have potential to help children in care to recover from complex trauma. Written by contributors working at the cutting edge of delivering effective therapeutic interventions, this innovative book describes models for working with children in foster care, kinship care or adoption and presents a range of creative therapeutic approaches spanning art psychotherapy, music therapy and dance therapy.”


Grade:
For Families

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Transfiguring Adoption awarded this book 4 Hoots out of 5 based on how useful it will be for a foster/adoptive family. [Learn more about our Hoot grading system here]

For Professionals

5 hoots out of 5

Transfiguring Adoption awarded this book 5 Hoots out of 5 based on how useful it will be for a professionals interacting with or treating foster or adopted children.


What Our Family Thought:

The target audience appears to be therapists, school personnel, and other professionals seeking to help children recover from complex trauma. Edited by professionals in the United Kingdom, this book focuses on therapeutic interventions in the UK but touches on their counterparts used in the United States. As someone who has a degree in psychology, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and its case vignettes. It gives background to theoretical developments in complex trauma and attachment as well the creative therapies used in treatment, their histories, effectiveness, and evidence base. It highlights the need for interdisciplinary interventions and teams of all involved adults working together to help children. This is an academic book which assumes at least some working knowledge in attachment, trauma, psychopathology, and psychotherapy.

We highly recommend this book to professionals in the field who interact with or treat foster or adopted children. This book would also be helpful to caregivers who are seeking to learn more about creative treatment options which may be available to their children.


Buy From Our Links and Support Transfiguring Adoption:


It’s Your Turn:

  1. Have your children taken part in therapies which were ineffective for them?
  2. What therapy would you like to try for your child?
  3. Has your child experienced success with any creative therapies? If so, what therapy was helpful?

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How To Choose A Tutor For Your Child

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Guest Blog by TutorDoctor.com

At the start of a new school year, it’s all too easy to fret and worry about your child’s academic
success. The good news is, you and your child don’t need to face these worries alone. A skilled
tutor can really help a student develop new skills and abilities they never knew they had. In fact,
a tutor can make a world of difference in a young person’s life. Choosing a tutor, however, can
be challenging, so here are a few tips that might help.

Does my child really need a tutor?

It can be difficult to acknowledge your young person’s academic weaknesses, but it really
shouldn’t be. Every human being has weaknesses (as well as strengths). In fact, be glad, because
identifying areas that need help is the first step in overcoming those areas. In truth, however, a
smart parent doesn’t just hire a tutor to boost grades in problem classes. A good tutor has the
skills and experience to help your learner in countless ways. The goal should always be about far
more than boosting grades — it should be about helping your child find excellence in school and
in life. A good tutor can help you make that happen.

How can a tutor help my child?

Struggles in school can set up an awful cycle. A learner feels disappointed, then starts to feel
increased stress, then starts to lose confidence, then starts to decline academically, and round it
goes. A good tutor can help break that cycle. Not only can problem areas be addressed, but the
student can learn to cope more effectively with obstacles. Breaking the chain of insecurity and
shame can empower a young learner tremendously, equipping them for lifelong success.
What’s more, a dedicated tutor offers much more than academic know-how — ideally they will
not just help your student learn specific subjects, but learn about how to excel in school. This
includes study tips, lifestyle changes, organizational improvements and more.

What if my child has an exceptionality?

A huge percentage of young people have learning exceptionalities such as ADHD, dyslexia and
so on. Happily, society is gradually abandoning the stigma associated with these challenges.
Even better, a growing body of knowledge can equip parents and students alike with the
information they need to find a path to educational excellence no matter what issues they may
have.
Good tutors have a full understanding of every exceptionality under the sun, and can offer coping
strategies and study skills that will not only get them through school but achieve inspiring and
amazing feats of academic excellence.

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What exactly should I look for in a tutor?

It’s important to be a bit choosy. Sometimes a high schooler with skill in a needed subject area
will get the job done. But for the best outcomes possible, it’s important to find a tutor who has a
great many skills that go beyond academic subject areas. The best tutor is someone who
understands all the complex and overlapping aspects of student life and can help your learner
improve not just in one subject area but help them develop as a person. This requires skills,
training and experience.

How important is a tutor’s personality?

Don’t underestimate personality. At Tutor Doctor, we employ a tutor matching system that helps
connect students with a tutor who is the best fit possible. It’s critically important for student and
tutor to connect. This helps the student relax, de-stress and concentrate. Good tutoring is a
collaborative effort, and that means everyone involved will have to work as a team — not just
student and tutor but parents and teachers as well.

The most important characteristic is heart. An experienced tutor understands just how much a
young person can be transformed with the right sort of help. Imagine an adult thinking back to
their school days and pondering the many things they wish they’d known back then. Well, a
good tutor will give your student all the tools and knowledge they might otherwise miss.

tutor-doctor-transfiguring-adoptionTutor Doctor offers in-home tutoring in a
plethora of locations throughout the
United States, Canada, and the United
Kingdom. Tutor Doctor also offers tailored
programming to help your child while working
with the teachers at your child's school.
The company hires tutors that are accustomed
to working with children from various
backgrounds and with varying academic challenges.

www.tutordoctor.com

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IEP and 504 Suggestions for Children Affected by Trauma

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But How Does Trauma Affect Him in the Classroom?

I actually had a school psychologist ask me this last year when I was advocating for a child. Of course, the child had just received eligibility for medical reasons, but the REAL need for an IEP related more to PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. What this psychologist did not understand is that the brain of a child who has endured chronic trauma is not open and available for learning. These children lives are lived in the lower, more primitive areas of their brain that control survival. While we as adults know that the child is generally safe at school, these children are consistently terrified unless certain actions are taken to make them feel safe so that the higher parts of their brains may be turned on for learning.

“..these children are consistently terrified unless certain actions are taken to make them feel safe so that the higher parts of their brains may be turned on for learning.”

Typical strategies do not work with traumatized kids. Rewards and punishment do not work. Typical classroom management does not work. Waiting for several hours for food and hydration kicks their brains into survival mode. Trauma triggers switch them into fight, flight, or freeze. Therefore, their individualized education plans (IEPs) or 504 plans at school need a different angle. At the bottom of this post, I have compiled a list of possible suggestions for IEPs and 504s. Every child is different, so seeking out the most appropriate accommodations and modifications are important for your child. Also, keep in mind that wording is important. The language of the IEP or 504 should come across as team efforts to come alongside and assist the child in need and not directed at the child as a problem!

One of the absolute best resources as far as a book for parents and school staff is [Help for Billy] by Heather Forbes. Many of the ideas below are included in the book along with detailed explanations of why these kids need different strategies and learning environments. I highly recommend you read it and pass it on to all teachers your child interacts with.

I have a few additional thoughts for foster and adoptive parents.

  • Remember that this is not a sprint
    Bringing kids toward healing is a marathon….an ultra marathon at that!! Darren and I value education highly, but we came to a realization along the journey that if these kids do not learn the basics of relationships and lifeskills, no amount of math and reading is going to help them succeed in life. If we spend most of the rest of their childhoods ensuring they understand how to interact with, communicate with, work with, and live with others, and they need a few extra years to catch up on academics, so be it. They can then achieve real success. Without those skills, reading and math will not help them necessarily hold down a job or maintain satisfying friendships or relationships.
  • No Homework
    To that end, we have many times recommended a “no homework” clause for foster and adoptive children, especially in the early parts of placement. (This is not a forever modification!) We learned the hard way when older elementary kids who struggled with school moved in, and instead of bonding and connecting and healing as a family, we were spending every night being wedged further apart by homework issues. We had to tell the school eventually that we had more complicated matters at home, and home would be home, and school would stay at school.

Categorized Suggestions:

Class Time

  • Frequent breaks
  • Sensory breaks
  • Safe adult mentor
  • Access to a water bottle at all times
  • One-on-one assistance, aid, or inclusion teacher
  • Assistive technology (voice recorder, smart pen, etc.)
  • Access to noise-canceling or noise-reducing headphones
  • Preferential seating (by door to allow breaks, by teacher in front of class to minimize distractions, in the back of the room to decrease feelings of threat from people behind, away from distractions like air conditioners, etc.)
  • Allow student to stand at desk
  • Seated on fitness ball or wiggle seat; bands around chair legs for resistance
  • Reduced visual and auditory stimuli around classroom
  • Reading tracker for reading
  • Paper to cover all problems but the problem being completed
  • Keep groups small (no more than 5 students) for activities
  • Give tasks, directions, or assignments one at a time to prevent stressing and overwhelming student
  • Assign a study buddy
  • Allow student to help another student in an area in which they excel to help bolster confidence
  • Safe place to retreat when child needs to self-regulate
  • Access to sensory or self-regulation tools (stress ball, chewing gum, fidgets, etc)
  • Shortened assignments
  • Advance notice and preparation time for transitions
  • Adult or peer to aid in transitions
  • Advance notice and preparation time for changes in the daily routine, field trips, etc.
  • Visual schedule for student to carry
  • Post daily schedule in classroom
  • Access to mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks (ideally, food—protein—offered every two hours)
  • Movement or sensory activities at least every two hours (Brain Gym as a whole-class activity)
  • Extended response time (whether oral or written)

Tests

  • Extended time
  • No timed tests
  • Alternate format (oral, multiple choice)
  • Scribe to write for student
  • Shortened tests
  • Completed in a small group

Lunch

  • Alternative location to eat rather than cafeteria
  • Safe adult to eat with

Recess

  • Smaller area to play in
  • Adult to come alongside and help child learn to interact and act as a safe home base

Specials

  • Staff made aware of plans for child

Homework/Assignments

  • Extended time
  • Alternative assignments (include creative assignments)
  • Exemption from all homework (possibly for a pre-determined amount of time)
  • Activities broken down into smaller assignments
  • Limit number of problems on page; increase white space to decrease overwhelm and stress
  • Shortened assignments
  • Advance notice
  • Allow parent to transcribe the student’s work
  • Substantially reduce amount of written work

Discipline

  • Absolutely no use of isolation
  • Time-ins (with the teacher or trusted adult) versus time-outs
  • View behavior as a message communicating a need and look for a way to meet the need

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