Can a Child be Traumatized by School?

Can a Child be Traumatized by School?

Yesterday I was asked by a parent of a twice-exceptional (2e) child if there was such a thing as school trauma. This was from a parent whose child reported that every day at school was a “living hell.”

Even if a 2e child manages to escape bullying (which is highly unlikely, as they are bully magnets),  they still must spend their days in a classroom that is not designed to support their needs.

They often endure stultifying boredom, as nearly all of their time is wasted on going over material they already know; but often they are unable to demonstrate their knowledge because there are no accommodations for their disabilities.

Most 2e children’s intellect allows them to compensate for their weaknesses, so they often look like an average or underachieving child to their teachers and administrators. In many instances they are reprimanded for not turning in homework, doing messy work, not following instructions, and not completing assignments. Often these “failures” are due to fine motor skill issues, executive functioning issues, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, or a host of other undiagnosed disabilities.

In addition, many 2e children have sensory dysfunction, which causes extreme sensitivity to their environment, including classroom or playground noise, visually over-stimulating classrooms, or overpowering lunchroom smells. It’s no wonder that many of these children view traditional school as torture.

Add to that, their perfectionistic tendencies, asynchronous development, overexcitabilities, and their ability to see through much of the administrative and bureaucratic nonsense that is part of our typical public schools, and you have a recipe for disengagement, strife, and drop out.

There seem to be two main ways 2e children respond to this toxic environment, I call them the “exploders” and the “imploders.”

The exploders are the major behavior problems in the classroom, the defiant kids, the class clowns, the kids who run away, the kids who flip out and throw something.

The imploders are the ones who quietly check out, disengage, and withdraw from all intellectual pursuits and social interactions.

Both of these responses are equally dangerous. The exploders are often labeled as emotionally disturbed and treated accordingly. The imploders may become depressed and even suicidal. Both imploders and exploders are seen as difficult, damaged children and parents are blamed for their failure to raise children who will comply with the school rules.

-Dr. Melanie Hayes, Big Minds Founder and Director