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School-Based Interventions : Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Interventions for Hypervigilance

  1. Prepare or signal the student for changes, class surprises, or transitions

    Use a calm, soft voice to forewarn a student of a fire drill, change in lunch period, or circumstances that may remind the student of past trauma, and discuss/rehearse how the student will manage.
  2. Avoid unnecesary exposure of the student to evocative/troubling stimuli

    Allow the student to enter the building from the side or back so he/she does not have to pass an area where he/she was frightened or traumatized.


  • Prepare or provide alternative schoolwork to avoid eliciting past traumas

    Alter curriculum content that is distressing to the student (substitute study of another State if the student's parent died in a State addressed by the curriculum). top

Specialized Instruction

  • Identify patterns that result in the student's "shutting down", and establish cues to interrupt or intervene

    Help the student identify circumstances that triggered his/her shutting down: what the student saw, what the class was talking about, or what made the student think about the trauma. Clarify what can help interrupt or prevent the student's shutting down (ask a content question, stand up, do something with his/her hands, hum a song to him/herself).
  • Identify acceptable language for the student to speak more comfortably about traumatic events

    With the student and parents, identify less painful language, such as "assault" instead of "rape," "sad time" instead of "mother's death". top

Behavioral Planning

  • Identify cues to signal the student when he/she appears to be shutting down

    Provide nonverbal (teacher hand signal) and verbal signals ("time to focus on ____") if the student becomes more withdrawn or shut down.
  • Identify safe, comfortable staff with whom the student can discuss traumatic events, flashbacks, or triggering events, and establish a procedure for accessing those staff when needed

    Identify a hierarchy of staff (counselor, aide, coach) and places (guidance office, hall next to office, gym) the student can access if he/she cannot focus on academics and instead needs to address the trauma while at school (the student may "address" it by writing in a journal, bouncing a ball in the gym). top
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