Education as Healing: Addressing the Trauma of Displacement through Social and Emotional Learning
Policy Paper 38
Traumatic experiences can cause long-lasting physical, emotional and cognitive effects. This can be particularly damaging when experienced during the sensitive periods of brain development. Persistent levels of stress can disrupt the architecture and development of brain and other biological systems with serious negative impacts on learning, behaviour and lifelong physical and mental health. Brain areas implicated in the stress response to trauma include those responsible for emotion regulation and memory; increased exposure to cumulative life stress during childhood has been associated not only with poorer spatial working memory but also with physical changes in the size of different brain areas. Trauma may also lead to behaviours that disrupt individuals’ learning, such as withdrawal, outbursts of anger or delays in language development.
However, even at critical times of brain development, the effects of traumatic experiences can be addressed with appropriate medical treatment and a responsive environment. Care and recovery following a traumatic event are commonly considered the exclusive purview of health services, especially when clinical mental health issues need to be addressed. But in practice, this may not always be the case.