My experience at work today has made me feel that it is time to start following my instincts and prioritise working more with children who have experienced trauma.
Over the past 8 years I have been attending primary school and kindergarten classrooms to observe children's motor development and challenging behaviours. I was using physical activity as a way to help children release their anger, express their frustration, and focus their minds for learning in a healthy manner rather than a destructive manner.
But what I have found is that I am feeling frequently drawn towards children who have experienced trauma. In my heart and gut, I feel like I know how children with trauma are feeling. Their self-protective behaviours of yelling, hitting, running out of the classroom, are similar self-protective behaviours that I have struggled with since I was a child (and still today).
Tearing paper, throwing a ball against a wall, swinging on a swing, singing to loud music, having deep pressure cuddles, have been a key part of my motor sensory programs, and not only are these strategies helping children with autism and sensory processing difficulties, more amazingly these brain stem and sensory integration strategies are settling some children who have experienced trauma.
I have avoided sharing my story for so many years, and have instead focused solely on sharing the strategies and knowledge that I have gained from my trauma informed training. But my experience today with a little 2 year old boy inspired me to start leading change in the trauma space of the early childhood sector, not only with my trauma training knowledge, but also leading in this space with my heart, my gut, and my shared experiences.
I was asked to observe a 2 year old's motor skills and developmental needs today, and during my observation session my trauma alarm bells started ringing instantly. It's like my body felt this toddler's trauma before my head intellectualised my trauma training. This little man was so hypervigilant, disconnected with his peers and educators, wandering around the room aimlessly, and functioning from a state of fight/flight. During this session, instead of leading with my Exercise Physiology motor development brain, I lead with my trauma gut instinct, and sadly read that my alarm bells were correct and the toddler's family history included extensive substance abuse and child protection.
I felt empathy for the toddler's rough start to life, and then I instantly felt passionate about sharing trauma informed research about brain stem activities such as a metronome, deep pressure touch, gentle back patting, with his educators.
It took just 5 minutes of implementing basic sensory motor strategies and then my heart melted as this little man turned from a hypervigilant/nervous toddler, to a sleeping, snoring toddler.
My life lesson for today was that my gut instincts are leading me to a new path, where I need to start sharing my story for the benefits of children like this little man.