Giving and Gratitude: Experiences to lower stress and boost happiness in adults and children 

Benefits of Giving and Gratitude

The holiday season is upon us. During this time, there will be many opportunities to experience giving and gratitude both of which provide many benefits for health and overall well-being. This is essential knowing the stress today’s adults and children face. When we give and when we receive, we lower stress and boost happiness. 

Giving time, energy, expertise, or even tangible things to others prompts the brain to release dopamine, a feel-good hormone. Giving, also known as generosity, provides the experience of feeling valuable to others. A sense of value is so important that Starr’s Circle of Courage resilience model includes generosity as a key universal need for all people, regardless of age, to feel whole. 

Generosity is beneficial for the giver and when we are on the receiving end of generosity, we experience gratitude, also a well-being booster. Perhaps someone offers support, nature provides a beautiful sunny day before the weather turns cold, or a neighbor shares a baked good. The feeling we have in these moments is often described as calm, content, and grateful. Research supports experiencing gratitude makes adults and children happier overall and results in better sleep, less physical complaints, and an improved ability to cope with stress. 

Giving and Gratitude in Action

When adults teach and model giving and gratitude, children learn how to engage in each. The more opportunities a child has over time, the more giving and gratitude are part of their lives. And, as adults teach and model, they also reap the benefits.  However, just saying, “thanks” or dropping canned goods off at a food drive isn’t quite enough. There are three components necessary to gain the rewards associated with experiencing generosity and gratitude. These components include notice, feel, and response. 

Here are some examples to help teach, model and practice embracing the experiences of giving and gratitude. As you read through and discuss each example, take the time to be present with how more awareness of what is happening allows a fuller experience of both giving and gratitude. 

Giving in Action: Notice, Respond, Feel

Example: Canned food drive at school 

Notice:  There is a canned food drive at school. 

Respond: I want to donate food to school. I bring canned goods to the food drive. 

Feel: Helping others in need makes me feel good. My body feels happy, and I am proud of how I can do my part to help. 

Example: Offering a friend help with schoolwork. 

Notice: My friend is struggling in Math.

Respond: I offer my friend help with Math problems that I understand. 

Feel: I feel valuable because I was able to help support my friend. I feel more connected to my friend and good about myself for what I did to help. 

Gratitude in Action: Notice, Feel, Respond

Example: Being included in lunch.

Notice:  She invited me to sit with her at lunch.

Feel: I feel like I belong, and she likes me. I feel safe, connected, and calm.

Respond: I smile and say, “Yes”.

Example: A teacher being kind. 

Notice: I was late to school. My teacher asked, “are you feeling alright – do you need anything?”

Feel: My teacher noticed me and cares enough about me to ask how I am. This calms down my body and makes me feel safe to ask her if I need support. 

Respond: I thank my teacher and tell her I will let her know if I need anything. 

Giving and Gratitude Activities

Talk to children about giving and gratitude or engage in one or more of the following activities. Remember to take time to identify the generous gesture, how it makes the giver and the receiver feel and how both respond.

  • Affirmation cards 
    • Color in affirmation cards that say things such as “I am thankful” or “It feels good to be kind.” 
  • Giving thank you notes, cards are artwork to others. 
    • Create thank you notes or cards with words or pictures for friends and colleagues. 
  • Giving and Gratitude Trees 
    • Draw a large tree on a board. Cut out paper leaves and write words or images on them that are examples of ways to give or things to be grateful for on them. Post them on the tree.  
  • My strengths can be used to help others. 
    • Create a list of strengths. What are you good at? As you look at the list, how can you use these strengths to help others who might benefit from your assistance. Put one of your ideas into action. 
  • ABC’s of gratitude 
    • Identify words for each letter of the alphabet that describe ways to be generous or give to others. Do the same with words that describe things, people, or experiences for which you are grateful.
  • Classroom meeting or circle 
    • During classroom meetings or circles, spend time talking about what generosity and gratitude means and how both can be experienced. 

Take advantage of this time of year to experience the benefits both giving, and gratitude can provide. There will be countless opportunities all around you. Whether you are giving or receiving or helping children as they give and receive, pause, and notice, feel, and respond. 

Dysregulation and Behavior: The Roots of Teacher Burnout

In the demanding world of education, teacher burnout has become a critical issue, often rooted in the complex interplay of dysregulation and challenging student behavior. By understanding the underlying factors of these challenges, we aim to offer insights and strategies to support educators in navigating daily life in their classrooms, ultimately fostering a more sustainable and fulfilling teaching environment.

Teacher Burnout Epidemic

More than 70% of educators in a national survey report that students are misbehaving more now than ever. The most common unwanted student behaviors they observe in their classrooms include emotional and behavioral outbursts, constant fidgeting, nonstop chatter, inattention, getting out of seats to leave the classroom and defiance. The National Center for Education Statistics cites worsening student behavior as a reason for teacher burnout. More than four in 10 K-12 school professionals in the U.S. (44%) say they “always” or “very often” feel stressed at work, outpacing all other industries nationally making educators among the most burned-out groups in the U.S. workforce. 

Student Mental Health Crisis

Managing a classroom of students has always been a challenge but over the past few years, this job has become increasingly more difficult. The number of youths experiencing mental health symptoms and reactions such as anxiety, depression, attention problems and behavior dysregulation has increased. Mental health disorders since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic have continued to rise among children as well as adults.  Stressful and traumatic experiences related to the pandemic along with constant exposure to racial tension and political conflict have remained constant. Child maltreatment, domestic violence, and the overuse of substances such as alcohol and drugs have also increased. In 2021 a National Emergency in Child and Adolescent Mental Health was declared by the American Academy of Pediatrics. This declaration comes with reports of a severe shortage in the number of mental health practitioners available to meet the demand.

Emotional Dysregulation in Kids: The driver of misbehavior

Often, what is observed as defiance, deliberate or intentional misbehavior may not be what it appears. It is a student’s best attempt to regulate their nervous systems. When students experience a significant amount of stress over a prolonged period, their bodies become dysregulated, thus over-active nervous systems. At times the need for movement can appear disrespectful and not aligned with classroom norms and rules. A dysregulated body cannot sit still as it demands a discharge of energy and activation from the stress overload. A dysregulated body, in survival mode, will do everything it can to regain balance even if that involves a fight or flight response.

  • An overwhelmed student can seem inattentive but really be worried about what happened at home the night before.  
  • An angry student appears to start unnecessary conflict with a teacher or another student however, they couldn’t control their body’s response to a threatening look or tone of voice. 
  • A student elopes from the classroom – they seem not to care but really it is their way of avoiding what they perceive as intimidating and scary.  
  • A student refuses to complete an assignment then you learn they were afraid of looking dumb in front of their classmates.  

How to Heal a Dysregulated Nervous System to Return to Learning

When educators view unwanted behaviors through a lens of being trauma-informed they can see that the real problem is rooted in a student who is dysregulated rather than a student who is “bad” and needs punishment. Dysregulated students need to feel safe by experiencing a sense of connection with a caring adult who is curious about what they need most. Reframing behaviors from what is observed to what the behavior is communicating can make all the difference. Behavior can be a clue to help understand unmet needs such as dysregulation – difficulty with emotional and or behavioral control. Giving up a need to know exactly what to do when unable to control classroom behavior and shifting to a mindset of curiosity can help.

Starr’s Trauma-Informed, Resilience-Focused Behavior Support Plan will help you become curious about the function of the behavior you observe, assess potential unmet needs for students and develop a support plan to help meet their needs. 


American Academy of Pediatrics (2021). A declaration from the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Association: Retrieved November 10, 2023, from

Marken, S. & Agrawal, S. (2023). K-12 workers have highest burnout rate in the U.S. Gallup Poll Education. Retrieved November 10, 2023, from

National Center for Education Statistics. (2023). Teachers’ Reports of Disruptive Student Behaviors and Staff Rule Enforcement. Condition of Education. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved [date], from

young black girl sitting in calming corner in classroom

Calming Corners: How to Implement in your Classroom

In the bustling world of education, where students and teachers are constantly navigating through a whirlwind of learning activities, introducing a calming corner can be an effective solution for many student needs. As reported in Starr’s Resilient Schools Project whitepaper, this is paramount to learning. While trying to individualize the instruction and social emotional supports for every student, the universal approach to creating a safe space for all students to learn is easily overlooked, but is truly the essential component of a resilience focused classroom.  

The Importance of Calming Corners

The modern classroom is a dynamic space filled with diverse personalities, learning styles, and energy levels. While excitement and engagement are integral to the learning process, moments of stress, anxiety, or overstimulation can also arise; having a dedicated space where students an retreat to find peace and regain their calmness is essential. This is where ‘Calming Corners’ come into play, not just as a physical space but as a transformative approach to classroom management and student well-being. ‘Calming Corners’ serve as dedicated spaces where students can take a moment away from the day’s demands, offering a retreat to regain composure and recenter their thoughts and emotions. 

The Benefits of Calming Corners

Children process a vast amount of sensory information daily. For some, this can be overwhelming, leading to sensory overload and emotional outbursts. Calming Corners provides a sensory-friendly area that helps students filter out the chaos and focus on regaining their emotional balance. The sensory benefits are countless but include: 

  • Visual Calm: Soft lighting and muted colors can reduce visual stimulation.  
  • Auditory Relief: Quiet spaces or the use of headphones can dampen the overwhelming noise of a busy classroom.  
  • Tactile Engagement: Access to stress balls or soft textures can offer comfort and grounding.  
  • Mindfulness Activities: ‘Time-in’ time is a great opportunity for students to do some breathing or movement to return to the center.  
  • Proprioceptive Input: Cozy furniture or weighted blankets can provide pressure that is calming to many children.  

Designing an Effective Calming Corner

Creating the perfect calming corner for your classroom doesn’t require a large budget or an expansive space. One of the best starting points to planning out a Calming Corner for your students is to include them in the process! Consider adding questions about what helps them feel peaceful, what type of objects help them focus, what colors make them feel calm, etc., during your next Circle Meeting. This involvement fosters a sense of ownership and ensures that the space resonates with the unique needs of the class. Here are some additional ideas and tools to help get you started:  

  • Selecting the Right Location: Choose a quiet, low-traffic area within the classroom. Ideally, the calming corner should be easily accessible but not in the midst of the main learning space. 
  • Creating a Cozy & Private Atmosphere: Use soft cushions, blankets of different weights and texture, and rugs to make the space inviting. Consider incorporating elements of nature, such as plants or nature-themed artwork, to evoke a sense of tranquility. Using bookshelves or room dividers is helpful to provide a sense of seclusion without complete isolation.  
  • Incorporating Sensory Tools – Provide a variety of sensory tools that support the students’ sensory systems.  
    • Visual: lava lamps, liquid timers, or calming jars  
    • Tactile: such as stress balls, fidget spinners, playdough or textured items.  
    • Auditory: headphones with calming music or nature sounds or noise canceling head phones 
    • Olfactory: a diffuser with calming scents such as lavender, peppermint candies to smell or eat, essential oil-infused rice bins or pillows 
    • These tools can engage different senses and help students channel excess energy or tension. 
  • Encourage Emotional Literacy – Introduce mindfulness activities, such as guided breathing exercises, calming music, or feelings charts. These visuals help children to identify and articulate their emotions while also providing them with step-by-step guides of how to practice these new skills. All of these resources can aid in relaxation and promote mindfulness. 
  • Personalization and Student Involvement – Incorporate art supplies to encourage expression through drawing or coloring, offering books about feelings can offer both comfort and learning. 
  • Maintain the Space – Keeping the area tidy and inviting on a regular basis will ensure it stays organized, warm, and inviting. Regularly rotating out the tools and resources will help to maintain the student’s interest. 

Calming Corners are more than just a space; they are a testament to the evolving understanding of children’s emotional needs in an educational setting. In the ever-evolving education landscape, incorporating calming corners represents a thoughtful and proactive approach to student well-being. By acknowledging the diverse emotional needs of students and providing them with a dedicated space to navigate their feelings, educators can create a more holistic and supportive learning environment. As the saying goes, stressed brains can’t learn, and in the calm corners of our classrooms, students can find the balance needed to thrive academically and emotionally. 

Empathy in Schools: The Brain Science and Its Crucial Role in Building Belonging

Empathy, often described as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, is not just a soft skill. It’s deeply rooted in our brain’s architecture and plays a pivotal role in trauma-informed, resilience-focused schools. Let’s dive into the fascinating world of empathy and its importance in the classroom.

The Brain Science Behind Empathy

“I feel your pain” is more than just a figure of speech. We can feel the pain of others in a modified form. Brain scans have demonstrated the existence of mechanism inside of the brain that allows individuals who are observers to unconsciously experience activations inside of their brain that mimic the same activations in the brain of the person they are observing. For example, someone watches another person receive an allergy shot in the back of the arm. When the observer watches the patient get poked by the needle on the arm, the same motor and sensory areas of the observer’s brain are activated that are activated in the person receiving the poke – just to a lesser degree. This makes it possible to empathize with another person but not become overwhelmed by their personal distress.  Brain cells called mirror neurons are responsible for this phenomenon and the result is empathy. Empathy helps create connections between individuals and fuels the feeling of compassion for another person. Just like the needle example, the same thing happens when individuals observe others’ facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language.

Empathy in Trauma-Informed, Resilience-Focused Schools

Trauma can profoundly impact a child’s ability to learn and socialize. Schools that recognize this and adopt a trauma-informed approach aim to create a safe environment where students feel understood and supported.

Empathy in the classroom is the cornerstone of such environments. When educators approach students with empathy, they:

  • Recognize and validate students’ feelings and experiences.
  • Create a classroom culture where students feel a sense of connection. 
  • Foster trust and safety in the classroom.
  • Promote resilience by helping students gain awareness of and navigate their emotions.
  • Helps balance students as they observe and interact with regulated educators. 

The Circle of Courage and Empathy

The Circle of Courage, a model of youth empowerment, identifies four universal growth needs of all children: Belonging, Mastery, Independence, and Generosity. Empathy plays a crucial role in fostering a sense of belonging. When students feel understood and cared for, they’re more likely to engage, participate, and thrive.

Strategies for Building Empathy in the Classroom

1. Model Empathetic Behavior: Children learn by observing. Teachers should demonstrate empathy in their interactions.

2. Storytelling: Reading books or sharing stories that showcase different perspectives can help students understand and appreciate diverse experiences.

3. Role-Playing: This allows students to step into another’s shoes, fostering cognitive empathy.

4. Active Listening Exercises: Teach students to listen without interruption, encouraging them to understand others deeply.

5. Encourage Group Work: Collaborative projects can help students appreciate different viewpoints and work together harmoniously.

6. Discuss Emotions: Create a classroom environment where discussing feelings is encouraged and normalized.

Empathy is not just a moral virtue but a neurological process deeply embedded in our brains. In the realm of education, it’s a powerful tool that can transform classrooms into safe, nurturing, and empowering spaces. By understanding its importance and actively fostering it, we can pave the way for more compassionate and resilient future generations.


Jankowiak-Siuda K, Rymarczyk K, Grabowska A. (2011). How we empathize with others: a neurobiological perspective. Medical Sciences Monitor. 17(1), R18-24. 

Riess, H. (2017). The science of empathy. Journal of Patient Experiences, 4(2), 74-77. 

How to Create a Trauma-Informed Resilient School | Foster Connections

Foster Connections

Students who feel connected to their school are also more likely to have better academic achievement, better school attendance, and stay in school longer.

How can you connect to your students?

One of the best ways to connect with your students is having classroom meetings. These meetings not only allows you to connect with students, but also allows the students to connect with each other and build community within the classroom.
How can you implement a classroom meeting?
Step 1: Form a shape (circle, square). Teacher and students discuss, decide, and practice:

  • Floor or chairs
  • Where, how do you get there?
  • Who do you sit by?
  • What does it look like?
  • What does it sound like?
Step 2: Introduce a talking piece. This talking piece helps regulate communication between students. Whoever has this piece is allowed to talk. Talking pieces may be a toy, a stick, a stone, or another small object.

Step 3: Practice using various topics to create proactive classroom meetings:

  • Get to Know You and Greetings
  • Who Am I
  • Compliments and Appreciations
Below is a video of education professionals like yourself explaining the topics they talk about at their classroom meetings:

10 Steps Book Cover

For more implementation on how to foster connections in the classroom, check out Starr’s 
10 Steps to Create a Trauma-Informed Resilient School!

Rupert Gallery

The Growing Miscellany of Intriguing Relics

In the early 1950s, what is now considered a treasured landmark on the campus of Starr was initially met as a peculiar gift. The story began when a Detroit attorney contacted Uncle Floyd. His client, Mrs. Emelie H. Brueckner, was interested in a bequest to Starr Commonwealth to build an art center. Starr was more interested in a cottage for his growing campus. However, as Keith J. Fennimore wrote in his history of Floyd Starr, Faith Made Visible, when hearing that the funds would be lost should Starr decline the offer of an art building, “Starr’s interest in the arts increased remarkably.” Many years later, and after building a collection from across the globe, visitors to the Brueckner Museum will find it only natural to have such a compelling building on campus. After all, beauty is a silent teacher.

The latest exhibit displayed in the museum is thanks to Kimberly Rupert, whose family was stationed in China, among other places, throughout the 1940s and 50s. This collection, which includes items of ivory, jade, furniture, and more arrived in America when the Ruperts were driven out of China in the midst of the Communist Revolution of 1946-49. In honor and memory of her parents, this exhibit will be known as “The Rupert Gallery”, with a plaque commemorating Claude and Sara Rupert. Given the impact of the Cultural Revolution of 1966-76, particularly the destruction of pre-Communist art, Spring Arbor University’s visiting Chinese professors who visited the Rupert home frequently remarked on the uniqueness of the collection.

Claude and Sara Rupert loved the Chinese people, and delighted in the opportunity to enjoy their art and culture and to share those items and memories with family and friends. We hope that experience may extend to those who have occasion to visit the Rupert Gallery of the Brueckner Museum for years to come. Starr Commonwealth Board of Trustees member and great grandson of Floyd Starr, Randy Neumann, has always held Brueckner Museum dear to the legacy of Starr, and welcomes the latest contribution. “My great-grandfather was very interested in the East,” recalls Neumann. “This gift is a wonderful opportunity to introduce children to the culture, craftsmanship, and beauty of China. I am grateful for the Rupert’s addition, which will touch the lives of many hurting children.”

Kenneth Ponds Named Vice President of Oneness and Special Advisor to the President

To further Starr Commonwealth’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, Kenneth Ponds has been named to the newly created position of vice president of oneness and special advisor to the president.

As an executive member of the cabinet and advisor, Ponds will provide expertise and guidance to the organization on topics and issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion in all forms, furthering Starr’s core belief in the oneness of humankind. He will assist Starr Commonwealth in efforts to achieve its mission and vision on an organizational level as well as in its offerings and services.
“For years, Starr has recognized that experiences of racism, toxic hierarchy, and oppression are experiences of individual, collective, and intergenerational trauma,” said Starr President & CEO Elizabeth Carey. “While we increased our efforts in this critical work, in the wake of recent social injustice and violence over the past few years, we knew we had to do more.

“From his professional experience to his heart and passion, I am confident Ken is the perfect person to spearhead our recommitment and guide the entire organization ever closer to achieving true oneness of humankind.”

Ponds previously served as campus chaplain for 40 years, and has since played a key role in Starr Commonwealth’s Glasswing Racial Healing program. Glasswing has been a cornerstone of Starr’s equity, diversity, and inclusion work since 1996, and has helped communities across North America “embrace the value of diversity with dignity.” Ponds will continue his contributions to Glasswing from an executive level as advisor, counselor, and mentor for staff.

“It’s an honor to have this wonderful opportunity to help Starr continue its journey of equity,” Ponds said. “This has always been a core belief for Starr, and along with the opportunity to help young people in their spiritual journey is what attracted me to Starr Commonwealth.

“This commitment to connection—with the ultimate goal of love that Floyd Starr envisioned over 100 years ago—is one that lives close to my heart. I am honored to help Starr and its partners continue to grow and making love visible in the lives of those we serve.”

Important Details for Virtual Conference Attendees

We are excited to have you join us for Starr’s first-ever virtual conference on July 20-22!

We appreciate your commitment to learning new, trauma-informed and resilience-focused tools and approaches to supporting the children, families, and communities you serve. These are difficult times. Please know that your support for the children you serve IS making a difference! Your presence at this 3-day event will equip you with new tools to enhance this support, and we hope you find both the content and experience empowering and educational.

  1. Go to
  2. In the upper right-hand corner of the screen, enter your email address and password and select the green arrow button to log in. Forgot your password? Click here to reset it.
  3. Once logged in, click on your “Dashboard” then click on “2020 Trauma and Resilience Virtual Conference”.

How to prepare for the conference

To ensure an optimal experience, we recommend preparing the following prior to the first day of the conference:

  1. Access to a computer/laptop with a strong and consistent internet connection.
  2. Access to Each session will be streamed at using Vimeo’s streaming video platform. To test your access to Vimeo, you can sign up for a free course (Trauma-Informed Resilient Schools, Children of Trauma and Resilience) at and confirm you can see the course videos for the course at https://learn.starr.orgMore information on accessing your online content is available here.

IMPORTANT: The Starr team will be unable to troubleshoot any individual issues that arise regarding connectivity issues during the conference. If you have any questions or concerns prior to the conference, please contact

In addition, please ensure you have a comfortable space to settle into and move around in throughout each day. Much like a traditional conference experience, we will be building in breaks between sessions, but alongside that, make sure you have:

  • Access to a quiet, interruption-free environment (or as quiet of an environment as possible – for those with kids and pets, we understand this is easier said than done!)
  • The ability to sit and stand (whatever is most comfortable for you!), while still seeing your computer or TV screen (if you have the ability to cast/project to it)
  • Healthy snacks and beverages on hand, to keep your energy up.

In fact, approach this like you are creating your own comfort corner, and we trust your virtual experience will be a great one!

focus article by dr Caelan soma about universal needs

ADHD? ODD? It Could Be Trauma

Symptoms and responses following trauma or during chronic exposure to stress can look like many other disorders. Two of the most common diagnoses in the school setting for children of all ages are Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). It is very common for trauma to be mistaken as ADHD or ODD, even by the most well respected and experienced educators. The differential diagnosis isn’t easy, but it is helpful to understand how and why this common mistake is made.

The differential diagnoses between trauma, ADHD, and ODD present significant challenges. First, there are several overlapping symptoms of PTSD, ADHD, and ODD. The diagnoses are not mutually exclusive, and there are currently significant assessment limitations.

This reality is terrifying and convicting for many educators. Often, it is the classroom teacher who first suggests the idea that a child may have ADHD, and this suggestion typically results from the child not “fitting into the box” of behavior expected of students in traditional learning environments. Uninformed educators, social workers, parents, and even medical professionals can quickly turn this suggestion into a misdiagnosis if they are not asking the right questions. In the end, a child who has experienced trauma and needs therapy may instead receive medication to treat a condition they do not have.


When children present salient symptoms that PTSD and ADHD share, begin to ask yourself: “Is it PTSD or ADHD? Both?” Unfortunately, this question is not an easy one to answer.


Learn more about overlapping symptomology in the eLearning course Trauma-Informed, Resilience-Focused Assessment and Differential Diagnosis:

To learn more about overlapping symptomology, or to make better decisions when diagnosing mental and behavioral health disorders, consider these offerings from Starr Commonwealth.

Trauma in Disguise: Introducing Trauma-Informed, Resilience-Focused Assessment and Differential Diagnosis

Trauma-Informed, Resilience-Focused Assessment and Differential Diagnosis is available now. Below, Dr. Cae Soma explains the origins of this course.

How can one benefit from taking Trauma-Informed, Resilience-Focused Assessment and Differential Diagnosis (TIRFADD)?

TIRFADD begins to explain to professionals how and why mental health disorder symptoms and reactions we see can be misinterpreted. We call this “trauma in disguise”, and make critical connections through symptoms and reactions displayed by the child. These behaviors look and sound like other mental health disorders. What TIRFADD teaches is centered around an overlap in symptomology. In addition, it’s not enough to say there’s an overlap—we need to know why this overlap exists. So, TIRFADD explains how the manifestation of trauma in the body, overtime, often appears as other disorders

What’s most fascinating, and an issue we dive deeply into in the course, is that the onset ages of mental health disorders follow the exact course of what’s happening in the body for those experiencing trauma:


More and more research has been done about how trauma looks like every other mental health disorder. It starts with anxiety disorders and moves up into behavior disorders, mood disorders, and at the high school level we begin to see all of the at-risk coping skills (substance abuse, gang involvement, self-harm). We have known for a long time, at the clinical level, that these kids don’t have true ADHD. It then shifted to educators, where well-intentioned teachers refer parents to ADHD screenings.

Doctors have not been trained in either med school or residency about the overlapping symptoms of mental health disorders and trauma. So, of course, a well-intentioned physician is trained to diagnose mental health disorders. That child may fit the criteria of a mental health disorder, but physicians are not approaching with a trauma-informed lens. When this occurs, either the symptoms and behaviors get worse, or things don’t get better. When things do get better, it’s because there is a true ADHD. Unfortunately, usually that does not happen—usually things get worse.

This course was created for any practitioner, or parent for that matter, who has found themselves in this difficult situation.

How did the overlap between trauma and ADHD symptomology, and subsequently the need for this course, come to be?

Beginning in 2005, there has been a proposal for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ( - American Psychiatric Association) to include a new diagnosis known as Developmental Trauma Disorder. Starr has been teaching about it, and support the proposal of that diagnosis. Put simply, it explains how a child grows and develops within the context of toxic stress and trauma, of course they’ll have these symptoms like ADHD, etc. This was the first place where our attention was caught with overlapping symptomology. They put into words what we had experienced with children. Unfortunately, it has yet to be adopted for the DSM. We teach about DTD because it would be a tremendous diagnosis. As opposed to PTSD, DTD would explain that symptoms and reactions have been compounded over a lifetime, not based on a single event. For now, and with the help of TIRFADD, physicians can use whatever diagnosis they may need to get the best service for kids, but with the understanding that what’s driving that diagnosis is probably trauma. In this course, we’re going to give you as much information as we can to be as aware as possible about the overlapping symptomology. It’s a difficult subject, as it’s not black and white. We can’t just follow the symptom and reaction – most likely you’ll get what you’re looking for.

We must remain curious and explore the possibility of what role underlying trauma may be playing in our children’s behavior.

Trauma and Resilience Summit Panel and Film Viewing

As part of the Summit experience, Starr is excited to announce that a panel of experts will be assembled to provide their first-hand experience in healing trauma and building resilience in clinical, educational, and residential settings.

A special introduction will be given by Starr Commonwealth President & CEO Elizabeth Carey, where she will share her perspective on the intersection of human services, healthcare, and education, in addition to the many opportunities for future partnership to continue to empower professionals,  heal trauma, and build resilience in all children – so all can flourish.

Meet the Panelists

Following our expert panel, we will be showing the film Resilience: the Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope, with a Q&A with Starr Director of Professional Training & Coaching Kathy Hart.

This event is free and open to the public. We encourage all attendees to invite their colleagues to this important forum. If you know someone who is driven to heal, refer them to our RSVP page, and you'll receive a coupon code for 20% any eLearning product on our store when they attend.

Register for the full summit