St. Aemilian-Lakeside is in the forefront of therapeutic practices that are based on neuroscience. Research has shown that trauma, such as drug or alcohol exposure, abuse and neglect, experienced in-utero through early childhood affects the brain. We know that children change fundamentally and biologically as the result of trauma. And we know that these changes affect behavior.
As a result, all our services to children and families are based on what is called trauma informed care. We assess children to try to learn when trauma occurred in their development and how long it lasted, because we know that different parts of the brain develop at different times. These various parts, from the brain stem to the cortex, affect different behaviors, from things such as motor control to abstract reasoning. Understanding when trauma occurred helps us tailor our responses.
“Adult” responses to “bad behavior” often focus on talking or reasoning or even yelling. That kind of abstract thought comes from the cortex. Responses from children who have experienced trauma, however, are based in the brain stem. This part of the brain produces emotional reactions from alarm to fear to terror. Reasoning with a child who is flooded with a stress response as a result of trauma simply doesn’t get through.
Therefore, we try to shift attitudes as an essential first step. Changing “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?” allows understanding and opens the door to healing.
We work with what are called sensory interventions to promote calming and to actually create changes in neuro pathways. We know, for instance, that rhythmic, repetitive activities can alter brain activity, and, to a degree, brain structure. So we incorporate things from hand massage to drumming or dancing or rocking in a rocking chair into the work we do with children. And we have seen dramatic results. Click here to access some of our stories.
We also foster a deep understanding by our clinicians — and all our staff — of how our own responses affect those around us. We encourage various practices to instill calm in our clinicians so they can mirror it with the children and families with whom they work.
Trauma informed care can be defined in many different ways, which include both philosophy and practices. At St. Aemilian-Lakeside, we believe seven elements are helpful in understanding what trauma informed care is and how to implement it. These elements are prevalence, impact, perspective shift, the lower brain, relationship, reason to be and caregiver capacity. Click here for a downloadable PDF with explanations on the elements.
In 2011, St. Aemilian-Lakeside became certified in what is known as the neurosequential model of therapeutics, or NMT. The creation of Dr. Bruce Perry, a pioneer in trauma informed care and one of the premier experts in this area, and his ChildTrauma Academy, NMT is a biologically informed way to assess when trauma occurred in a child’s development and create ways to mitigate its effects.
In addition to incorporating trauma informed care into all the work we do with children and families, St. Aemilian-Lakeside trains other professionals, from social workers and therapists to individuals involved in the criminal justice system.
For more information on St. Aemilian-Lakeside’s trauma informed care initiatives, or to inquire about training, contact any of the following:
Ann Leinfelder Grove
Vice President of Strategy and Innovation
Chief Clinical Officer
Director of Quality Improvement
Staff Development Facilitator
Click here to watch a video of Ann presenting at BRIEFING: Beyond Tears: The Impact of Early Trauma in a Child’s Development:
Click here to listen to an interview with Ann on WUWM radio’s Lake Effect:
“Creating a Trauma Informed Community” symposium
Click here for details on the symposium we held in March of 2011 with Dr. Robert Anda and Dr. Bruce Perry and to access several informative handouts from both of them.
All trainings are currently full. If you would like to receive information about future trainings, please contact Sandy Engelhardt at firstname.lastname@example.org or (414) 465-1396.