How One Suburban District Is Helping Elementary Students Who Have Experienced Trauma Behave and Succeed 'They Need Us' How One Suburban District Is Helping Elementary Students Who Have Experienced Trauma Behave and Succeed 'They Need Us' DREAM: Therapy Leads to Better Behavior in Classrooms

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), April 8, 2018 | Go to article overview

How One Suburban District Is Helping Elementary Students Who Have Experienced Trauma Behave and Succeed 'They Need Us' How One Suburban District Is Helping Elementary Students Who Have Experienced Trauma Behave and Succeed 'They Need Us' DREAM: Therapy Leads to Better Behavior in Classrooms


Byline: Madhu Krishnamurthy mkrishnamurthy@dailyherald.com By Madhu Krishnamurthy mkrishnamurthy@dailyherald.com

Suburban Education Lab is an occasional series focusing on innovative programs at suburban schools, colleges and universities tackling common, universal problems students face using unique methods.

Educators nationwide are recognizing that early psychological traumas can have a huge impact on children's brain development and learning.

Just how teachers and schools can support students affected by adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, is not quite a science.

That's where Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300's new initiative called DREAM Academy -- for

Suburban Education Lab is an occasional series focusing on innovative programs at suburban schools, colleges and universities tackling common, universal problems students face using unique methods.

Educators nationwide are recognizing that early psychological traumas can have a huge impact on children's brain development and learning.

Just how teachers and schools can support students affected by adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, is not quite a science.

That's where Algonquin-based Community Unit

District 300's new initiative called DREAM Academy -- for Dedicated Reinforcement, Engagement And Motivation -- comes in.

This school year, roughly 100 students in first through fifth grades at Perry Elementary School in Carpentersville struggling with emotional traumas and behavioral issues are receiving additional support in smaller classroom settings to improve their academic performance and overall health.

It's the first suburban district to adopt a trauma-informed teaching and intervention program for early grades.

Fourth-grade DREAM teacher Heather Wallace took district-run classes -- "Teach like a pirate" and "Teaching the whole-brained child" -- to learn how to deal with difficult students.

"To take our most intense kids and put them in one classroom can be a little bit overwhelming," said Wallace, who has taught 19 years at Perry and has a background in special education.

Wallace said she volunteered for the program because she "worked really well with those naughtier children." Building rapport and mutual respect are key, she said.

"They need us," Wallace said. "They need rules to know that there are consequences if the rules aren't followed. Once you start breaking through to them, it's pretty awesome. It's challenging, but it's so rewarding to take them from where they were. a They are completely, totally different children."

Overcoming adversity

A majority-minority school, Perry's 610 students are 55 percent Latino and 40 percent black; 92 percent are from low-income families.

Students in the program were screened and identified as at-risk due to having five or more adverse childhood experiences, such as neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, substance abuse, homelessness, poverty, divorced parents, family violence, and death or incarceration of a family member.

"Those people who have four or more ACEs are predisposed to increased psychosocial and health issues," District 300 Superintendent Fred Heid said. …

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