Attachment, Trauma and Learning
Lots of children in foster care find some difficulties with education and have an inability to cope with education environments. There are many reasons for this and also many ways in which the children and young people can present. There are many strategies to use when working with these children, but the starting point understanding.
Children in the care system have many experiences within their short lives which impact on a child’s ability to learn and interact socially. These include abuse, neglect, coming into care and placement moves. These events and more can lead to the child or young person having a very different view of the world, say to another child who has a stable and loving environment to thrive. Children and young people who have experienced trauma and have not had their needs met will have an ‘internal working model’ which reinforces their thoughts of being bad, worthless, unlovable, untrustworthy and with the world being a very dangerous place. With this type of model in place in the child’s mind, it’s no wonder these children are going to find it difficult to learn and develop educationally.
Children who have experienced trauma may find school difficult, as they are separated from their foster carer, who has become their main attachment figure. The child may find contact with lots of different people in school overwhelming; making new relationships can be extremely difficult. The pressure of expectation and how to interact and behave appropriately can be difficult. If a young person has been living with threat or fear at home for a significant period, the child may not be able to concentrate or focus and maybe ‘hypervigilant’ which is not conducive to learning. The pressure of the work and being unable to do the work unsupported can cause difficulty. Learning is not a priority for these children, where survival and having their own needs met has been the only ongoing constant in their young lives.
Many of the attachment disorder behaviours displayed by traumatized and neglected children are a direct consequence of their experience and they will have often developed entrenched strategies to enable them to survive and function in life. These may include:
- Demanding or clingy behaviours
- Nonsensical, persistent questioning
- Indiscriminant affection with strangers
- Lack of cause/effect thinking
- Poor impulse control
- Inability to initiate/maintain relationships
- Lack of eye contact (except when lying)
- Superficially charming behaviours
- Organisational Difficulties
- Lying and stealing
- Low self esteem
Teachers are not trained to work with these types of behaviours and it can be incredibly difficult to teach children, if you do not have an understanding of why the children behave as they do. For further information regarding attachment difficulties go to www.childtrauma.org . For training please take a look at the training we provide or contact us for further information.