Developmental Trauma and Trauma-informed Schools: Transforming Knowledge into Action

Course Number: EDU 5515 C27
Instructor: Dave Melnick, LICSW
Location: Holiday Inn, Rutland, Vermont
Dates and Times: Tuesday, September 26, Monday, October 23, (classes 3, 4, and 5 are required for graduate credit), Thursday, November 30, Friday, December 15, Thursday, January 25 
Credits: 3 credits
Tuition: $1,590

Note: Please register directly with the Vermont Higher Education Collaborative. The Collaborative will then give you the link to Castleton's online registration form.

Course Description

This class will focus on the global impact that chronic traumatic stress has on the developing child and adolescent. Research and clinical/educational practices have helped clarify the expansive and often significant effects of chronic trauma across the lifespan for students exposed to highly adverse experiences. These experiences (sometimes referred to as toxic stress) often derail a youth’s development and lead to a variety of functional adaptions that are used to combat the impact of trauma. Students will examine the “Seven Domains of Impairment” (The National Child Traumatic Stress Network), a research based set of functional adaptions that can help educators better address the needs of youth exposed to toxic stress. Students will also examine these seven domains with an eye towards their application by teaches, para-educators, administrators and behavioral interventionists, noting the specific and often innovative strategies necessary to help children learn and develop. Additionally, many innovative approaches to help create “trauma-informed schools” will be studied, with each student developing his/her own proposal to support the school in which they work. Through a mixture of didactic teaching, student consultations, videotape, and participant activities, attendees will increase both their theoretical understanding of complex trauma and their confidence in working with a broad variety of youth impacted by traumatic events.

Course Objectives

As part of the classroom and self-study experience, students will:

1. Develop a sound understanding and capacity to apply basic concepts related to psychological trauma.
2. Increase his/her knowledge of the impacts of traumatic stress across the child’s lifespan.
3. Learn and apply the “Seven Domains of Impairment” to their work setting.
4. Increase his/her understanding of systems theory and how this applies to the students and school in which they work.
5. Expand upon his/her understanding of the unique and innovative strategies necessary to address traumatic stress.
6. Study various models for “trauma-informed schools” and develop a proposal for his/her work place.
7. Develop specific skills to increase his/her and collegial skills in working with students with challenging emotions and behaviors.
8. Understand the impact of vicarious trauma and empathy fatigue, with improved skills in self-care and wellness.

Schedule of Classes

Date Topic Readings (to be completed before each class) Assignment/ Due

Class #1
Tuesday September 26th
(6 hours)

Introduction to Developmental Trauma: Theory Base, Neurobiology of Stress and Core Practice Competencies


1. Complex Trauma in Children and Adolescents (Alexandria Cook, Ph.D. et. al.)

2. Children of Trauma: What Educators Need to Know (Kathleen Benckendorf)

3. Chapter 10 in “The Body Keeps the Score” (Bessel van der Kolk)

Assignment #1
Due: October 15th

Class #2
Monday October 23rd
(6 hours)

Trauma-informed Practice: Core Competencies (continued), 7 Components of a Trauma-informed School

1. “The Body Keeps the Score” (Bessel van der Kolk). Chapters 3, 4, 5, 7

2. Article: National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information, National Adoption Information Clearinghouse

3. Recommended: “Memories of the Future”, (Chapter 2 in, Deep Survival, by Laurence Gonzalez) Assignment #2

Due: November 12th

Class #3
Thursday November 30th
(6 hours)

Trauma-informed Practice: Systems Work, Adult Capacities

In class watch:

Russ Ackoff video
1. Webinar: UVM Placement Stability Project, “Family Systems” (2 hours)


1. The Sanctuary Model® of Trauma-
Informed Organizational Change
Sandra L. Bloom, MD

Resilient: The School Discipline Revolution in Walla Walla, WA

1. Watch Webinar prior to class (Counts as 2 hours towards course requirement)

Assignment #3:
Due: December 10th

Class #4
Friday, December 15th

Practice Strategies, Models of Trauma-informed Schools, Case Consultations


1. Unlocking the Door to Learning: Trauma-informed Classrooms and Transformational Schools, McInerney and McKlindon
2. “Self-Reg”: Chapters 1,2, 4

2. “Helping Traumatized Children Learn”
Massachusetts Advocates for Children: Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative In collaboration with Harvard Law School and The Task Force on Children Affected by Domestic Violence. Pages 1-78

In class do Assignment #4 (partner to review)
Handout Consultation Outline and Review it

Independent Work:

To be done between 12/15/17 and 1/25/18
(6 hours in total )

1. Watch movie from page 2 of syllabus. Be prepared to discuss in last class.
2. Watch “Removed (part 1) and Remember My Story (Part 2). Be prepared to watch in class.
3. Meet with your consultation group to present your student Assignment #5
Due: January 22nd

Class #5
Thursday January 25th
(6 hours)

Practice Strategies, Impacting your School

Final Project Presented

Empathy Fatigue, Wellness and Self-Care
Presentations “The Body Keeps the Score”, Chapters 13, 14, 16

“When Compassion Hurts: Burnout, Vicarious Trauma and Secondary Trauma in Prenatal and Early Childhood Service Providers” From:

Best Start Resource Centre
Health Nexus
180 Dundas Street West
Suite 301
Toronto, Ontario, M5G 1Z8

*** Choose two of these models to read about (you may also pick one of these models and research another one if preferable):

1. The Flexible Framework:

2. Compassionate Schools: The Heart of Learning and Teaching.

3. Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction: Trauma-Sensitive Schools Learning Modules

Assignment #6
Due: February 11th

For additional course information

Dave Melnick, LICSW
(802) 658-3924

For additional registration information

Julie Medose
(802) 498-3350

Register online now!