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Trauma Informed Care

Amanda Mills, Child Care Resource Specialist

Behavior is a form of communication and every misbehavior is an attempt to fulfill an unmet need.

What is Traumatic Stress?

  • Overwhelming experience
  • Results in vulnerability and loss of control
  • Leaves people feeling helpless and fearful
  • Interferes with relationships and beliefs

Our Bodies’ Reaction to Trauma

During stressful situations, our bodies secrete cortisol – stress hormone - in higher doses to help aid our survival. Elevated cortisol impacts health and cognitive functioning.

Children who experience traumatic events or whose mothers experienced traumatic events during pregnancy are more susceptible to anxiety, depression and even PTSD.

Our brain is made up of the amygdala (the brain stem), the limbic system (mid brain) and the pre-frontal cortex. The amygdala asks “Am I safe?”, the limbic system is responsible for memories, emotions and past experiences and the prefrontal cortex is responsible for rational thinking and logic. When children “Flip their Lid”, they lose access to their prefrontal cortex, the “thinking brain”, and the amygdala activates and operates from a place of fear. (Early Childhood Mental Health Center)

Watch Dr. Dan Siegel present his hand model of the brain here.

Responding to Trauma in Children

Trauma Informed Care helps rebuild the child’s brain through compassion and the creation of calm and safe spaces. Creating calm can reduce the response of a child’s overactive amygdala response. It is important for child care providers and teachers to be aware that there may be hurt, fear and anxiety behind the behaviors of a child. Knowing this can help support a child’s needs.

Children who are exposed to more than 3 adverse experiences in their early years are 32 times more likely to have learning and behavioral problems than non‐traumatized children.

Maltreated children are more likely than their peers to be held back in school, have irregular attendance, and receive remedial attention.


For more information on ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) go to

Additional Child Trauma and Stress Resources: