Wyatt Cenac, American comedian, actor, producer and Emmy Award winning writer, and his team were on campus last week filming for part of a series he is hosting and producing about mental health in education. He came to Oregon due to its low national mental health rankings for teens. Their research on what Oregon was doing to support teenage students brought them to Tigard High and the TI Pilot. Cenac wanted to know what Trauma Informed Care looked like in a school. Be sure to tune into the show when it airs in the Spring of 2019.
Stress Awareness and Special EducationChristy Goodell, special education learning specialist uses TI concepts to support her students receiving special education services. Christy noticed that many of her students had trouble following the stress continuum scale used at Tigard. She found that they had trouble distinguishing between even being alert and being terrified. She believes that if her students can not tell where they are on a stress continuum that it is unlikely they will have the ability to cope with each state. Christy is now using pulse oximeters to help students tie together how they are feeling with how their heart rate changes. She believes that if her students can begin to understand their stress and its impact on their body, they can begin to cope with it. She hopes her students learn how to reduce their stress and know when to ask for help when they find themselves unable to manage their stress. Stress can play a big role in many of the lives of teenage students receiving special education services which can often get in the way of accessing their cortex, where learning occurs.
Self-Regulation and Data Analysis in MathNicole Barker, math teacher, teaches students to use regulation strategies and incorporates it into her math lessons. Nicole and Amanda Davila, special education learning specialist, began an action research project last semester teaching a broad array of self-regulation skills to students. This included the incorporation of sensory techniques such as touch (fidgets, clay etc.), smell (diffusers), sound (classical music, etc.) and taste (Mints) along with movement and breathing exercises. Nicole and Amanda's students used the data collected to find the standard deviation and their baseline range of heart rate and perceived stress levels. Initial results from this action research is that heart rate and perceived stress level are reduced just after a regulatory exercises for all students as a whole. Nicole and Amanda's action research project is now being expanded into Kristi Lattimer's IB English class, Nicole's Algebra class and possibly Keri Butler's on track class.
Should Schools Support Students With Their Mental Health?Our job is to get to the cortex of students where reasoning, problem solving and learning occur. Mental health issues impede access to the cortex and this impacts a students ability to learn. But there is a more compelling reason why mental health support for students is important.
During my time here managing the Trauma Informed Pilot at Tigard High School, I have had numerous conversations with colleagues who have shared with me the struggles students have shared with them. I have had numerous conversations with students who have shared how they have suffered with mental health issues in silence not knowing where to turn. The most compelling reason to provide mental health support to our students is simply because it is the right thing to do.