Teaching Strategies & Accommodations for Students with PTSD

Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

In this lesson, we'll be tackling the behavior challenges that come with teaching students with PTSD. After a brief refresher on this disorder, we'll go into teacher strategies you can use in the classroom to help your students.

What Is PTSD?

Everyone has been through tough times. From financial struggles to a break up with a significant other, struggle is part of the human condition. Although these struggles are usually resolved and we move on, some events can leave a lasting impression, especially on children.

Sometimes, events in our lives can be so physically harmful or emotionally disturbing that they cause a condition called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in which people experience heightened anxiety even after the event stops. Patients with PTSD frequently relive the event through flashbacks or nightmares, leading to a serious disruption in their life.

PTSD results in extreme anxiety and other symptoms.

This disorder can be caused by a single event or continued conditions that cause an individual to fear for their physical or emotional safety. Poverty, abuse and witnessing or participating in violent acts are common causes of PTSD in schools. Today, we're going to look at how this condition manifests in classrooms and what you can do to help your students with PTSD.

PTSD in the Classroom

To understand how PTSD impacts your students, let's look at an example. Jammari is a 10th grader in your math class. Jammari typically comes in late, demands to sit in the back and uses his phone as a distraction. Some days, he can participate and complete all his work. His behavior doesn't seem to be about avoiding the work, since he gets great scores when he participates.

Distractions can be a way of coping with PTSD.
students on phone

What could be going on with this student? Like many urban teens, Jammari has experienced a life of poverty riddled with violence. Last year, he witnessed his brother shoot another teen in his neighborhood when an altercation broke out. The event was severely traumatic, and like many students in this situation, he was never given counseling or proper treatment, and he developed PTSD.

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