There’s no such thing as a bad kid in these Spokane, WA, trauma-informed elementary schools

WTilesWhat’s a trauma-informed school? It’s a place where this happens:

There’s this third-grade kid. Let’s call him Sam. He’s got ODD (oppositional defiant disorder…a misnomer for normal behavior a child exhibits when he’s living with chronic trauma).

Nine-year-old Sam (not his real name) is very smart. But sometimes he balked, dug his heels in deep,

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Q-and-A with Suzanne Savall, principal of trauma-informed elementary school in Spokane, WA

Suzanne Savall, principal of Otis Orchards Elementary.

Suzanne Savall, principal of Otis Orchards Elementary.

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Suzanne Savall, principal of Otis Orchards Elementary School in Spokane’s East Valley School District, says she didn’t really know what she was signing up for, but the words “complex trauma”

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Did Steve Jobs have an attachment disorder?

jobs-kutcher-2I was reading a review this morning of the new movie “Jobs,” an account of Steve Jobs’ career. Now I’m a Mac guy and a big fan of Jobs, but even his biggest fans would acknowledge that he was a genius with very serious personal flaws. This review brought it all back.

He dropped out of Reed College, an elite private school in Oregon for other pursuits – Eastern philosophy and hallucinogenic drugs, among other things. He was a bully, prone to rages and tantrums

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Reduce ACEs by dismantling the “prison industrial complex”

prisonWhen I was a child growing up in Kentucky, my father made regular visits − usually at night − to the local jail to provide medical care to inmates. In one way or another, substances were the root cause of both their illnesses and their incarceration. My teetotaler father had other gritty experiences with alcohol, finding himself from a young age getting his beloved “Uncle Ed” out of the drunk tank over and over again.

Elements of these recollections from the 1950s and 60s are as universal today as ever — the impact of substance abuse on the individual, the ripple effect of addiction and incarceration on the family, imprisonment instead of treatment — but the explosion in the rates of incarceration in this country have created a crisis of proportions unthinkable in the post-WWII era. According to the Pew Charitable Trust report, Collateral Costs: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility, there are now 2.3 million

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First Focus’ Children’s Budget 2013 shows less than 8 percent of U.S. budget invested in children

firstfocusFirst Focus‘ recently published report, Children’s Budget 2013, shows a decline in total federal spending on children for three consecutive years and reports that less than 8 percent of the federal budget is invested in children. Current Congressional budget negotiations pose a real threat to sustaining even this low level of federal support, in spite of strong public support for children’s programs.

The analysis by the bipartisan children’s advocacy organization looks at the more than 180 specific federal investments in children, ranging from broad

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Ariel Castro case a wake-up call to notice violence in homes around us

castrohouse2Ariel Castro’s house was demolished last week. This house has shocked the world: three women imprisoned, two since they were themselves children, and subjected to physical and psychological torture. The name ‘Cleveland’ has become an embodiment of violence, of captivity — and, for people like me who lived through years of abuse, a trigger of memories and pain we would prefer never to revisit.

Yet as livid as I have become every time I have thought of Castro and the horrors he inflicted upon Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, my sense of helplessness and rage at their tragedy has only been heightened by how little American society seems prepared to learn from their case and take preventive action.

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A tale of two orphans — Casey and “Joseph” — results in very different paths

Flickr.com/Javier Kohen

Flickr.com/Javier Kohen

Our first image of Casey in April 1991 came through another American couple who were in the process of adopting a two-year old boy named Joseph (not his real name). He lived in the same orphanage as Casey did in Mrągowo, Poland. They snapped a couple of pictures of her while they received Joseph, pictures that we’ll cherish forever. We kept in touch over the years, sending Christmas cards and photos of our children as they grew from infancy to toddlerhood to middle school and high school.

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Models to curb domestic violence emerge from tragic murder in Massachusetts in 2002

nyorkerThe July 22 issue of the New Yorker contains a riveting account (“A Raised Hand: Can a new approach curb domestic homicide?” by Rachel Louise Snyder) of how the tragic 2002 murder of Dorothy Giunta-Cotter by her husband led to a fundamentally new approach to prevent domestic violence fatalities by advocates at the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center where she sought help.

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Terrifying children into a life of asthma

Credit: Cellular Image/Flickr

Credit: Cellular Image/Flickr

Sometimes the clearest indicator of a family’s dysfunction is, unfortunately, illness in its children. Like the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, it’s the children who are most susceptible to the toxicity of family addiction and dysfunction. Hurt people hurt people, and literally scare the life out of little kids.

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The early, heartbreaking rages of a baby with attachment disorder

From the very beginning to the very end of our lives together, Casey suffered from violent and debilitating rages and temper tantrums. The slightest thing would seem to set her off. She wouldn’t accept our attempts at comfort, so she was left alone to thrash around in her room until she fell asleep, waking up the next morning a new person, as if she’d exorcised an evil spirit inside her.

The “experts” told us she’d grow out of it; we just had to be tougher with her. How clueless they – and we – were.

Imagine if you’d been abandoned by your mother, for whatever reason. What if she had other children? You could be living in Shangri-La (as Casey did in Northern California) as opposed to rural Poland. It’s not surprising that your thoughts would turn to, “Why did you keep them and not me?” That would be enough to enrage me. And who would you take it out on? Your adoptive parents.

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