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Through the Eyes of a Trauma Exposed Child: Do you see what I see?

November 1, 2011


The music band Reamonn, wrote a song titled, Through the Eyes of a Child, with one of the main chorus lines reading, “Why did we make it so hard, this life is so complicated, until we see it through the eyes of a child.”  However, as a therapist who works with traumatized children, I would say, “Life is so complicated especially when we see it through the eyes of a ’trauma-exposed’ child.”

Although we know that trauma has the potential to negatively impact a person’s ability to cope, learn and be in the world in a healthy, full functioning way, how do we evaluate the impact that the many kinds of trauma has had on a child/youth?  How do we see, through their eyes, how they now experience the world, see themselves, and experience relationships?

You read the referral, which could go something like, a 7-year-old boy sexually abused by his uncle over a three-year period.  Now he is engaging in sexual behaviors with another little boy.  Where do you start?  How does this little fellow feel when around male adults?  How does he communicate or relate to his peers?  When he is at school, how is he processing information?  How is he learning?  What does he see, feel, sense, and think having experienced the invasion of sexual abuse?

Comprehensive treatment begins with a comprehensive assessment.  As responsible clinicians, we desire to provide effective and appropriate interventions based on best practices and evidence-based research.  Understanding how to conduct assessments specifically designed to evaluate the impact of trauma on children/youth is a necessary beginning if we are to provide effective and ethical therapy.

As a registered clinical social worker and trauma and loss consultant, I am excited to see the new training offered next February in San Antonio.  TLC and the Child Trauma Assessment Center (CTAC) at Western Michigan University are joining forces to provide a Trauma-Informed Assessment Specialist Certification. Whether you are just starting out in the field or you have been practicing for a long time, this training will provide clinicians with new, evidence-based practices to add to their assessment framework.  Join the many of us who will be participating and gaining expertise in trauma-informed assessment by learning new tools and skills.

Learn to administer and interpret:

  • The Ethnographic Interview – which assists in the process of creating a case history that is culturally sensitive
  • The SW Michigan Child Trauma Screening Protocol
  • The Kaufmann Brief Intelligence Test – a brief measure of both verbal and nonverbal intelligence

Let’s get educated to provide responsible assessment and treatment practices to serve trauma-exposed children and youth.  Let’s make a difference by really seeing what they see, what they feel and sense, so we CAN know what they need.

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