Today marks my anniversary of being diagnosed with breast cancer. It is my first anniversary, and I am cancer free. If you have experienced cancer, you know it is never too far from your mind. At the beginning of the diagnosis, it was all I could think of, and then it lessened.
Many people have stories of days that trigger a memory. Memories can be good; some are happy, and others are traumatic. Dates can trigger memories of events, a smell, or a sound. There are many ways to trigger a memory to the surface, and we have no control when it comes.
Our brains are our control center, and we can help in learning ways to help respond when we find ourselves in situations involving a trigger. The holidays are when we have many people who experience difficulties, so please check on those you know will have issues this year due to losing a loved one or an illness.
Dr. Tranel was one of the experts who assessed me after my accident in 2010, which resulted in a traumatic brain injury. Meeting him and going to his Iowa facility was a memorable event for me. My husband drove me, and we stayed overnight. The testing I cannot remember all of them, but I can recall all of the different rooms and equipment. In one of the testing rooms, I was placed in front of a big screen and told I would be viewing some video clips. The purpose of the testing was to measure my emotions. Other testing completed that day looked at my ability to smell and executive functions, to name a few of the comprehensive testing conducted.
Not to make this all about my test results, but my injuries did result in the loss of emotions, smell, taste and other deficiencies. My point in sharing this information is this:
Even if a traumatic brain injury is not the diagnosis of individuals in your classrooms, trauma over time can impact children’s brains as they grow. “Trauma in early childhood can result in disrupted attachment, cognitive delays, and impaired emotional regulation. Also, the overdevelopment of certain pathways and the underdevelopment of others can lead to impairment later in life.” (Perry, 1995)
“The human brain is designed to sense, process, store, perceive, and act on information from the external and the internal environment. All of these complex systems and activities work together for one overarching purpose—survival” (Goldstein, 1995 cited in Perry, et al., 1995). The impact of trauma on brain development is reported in a new study that traumatic or stressful events in childhood may lead to tiny changes in key brain structures that can now be identified decades later.
My plea today is no different than it has been for decades now. We need more mental health support for our children. Training and support for schools are needed as well. These recommendations come from my personal and professional experience. The behaviors we see in classrooms are, most of the time, a result of the effects of trauma.
Ever had a child pushed all of the papers off the desk? I pushed all the papers off the desk in one of my therapy sessions. I cannot believe I did that, but I did. Totally not in my personality, character, or what I would have allowed happening in my classroom. However, now I understand the level of frustration and the inability to process how to handle it. This incident occurred early in my treatment, but I can remember the day.
Every choice we make has a consequence in life, and we need to teach children this early in their life. However, we need to meet them where they are and provide the resources, support, and guidance they need as they grow to develop the skills they need.
Respect, trust, and responsibility are the first basic skills we work on in Two Rules. We all must work on them to make the differences we want to see reflected in our schools, homes, and communities.
Everyone has a story to tell, and I have many. I believe I have been given many opportunities in life to learn to pass on to others. My injuries are not something you can see or identify. I have been provided with many ways to continue strengthening myself and building. It is me who defines who I am and not the titles given in life, names of illnesses or injuries. Please pick up your pen and continue to write your story to share with others as we help in growing a better tomorrow than today. Be the solution daily in a world so thankful you are in it!