Fall River, Mass. – Children with a history of trauma often have difficulty regulating their arousal or energy levels. Typically, they either are over-aroused and anxious; or under-aroused, which can present as withdrawn behavior. Frequently, those with high energy and who are over-aroused are given diagnoses of ADHD, when in fact these symptoms may be the result of trauma.
“Stop, Slow, Go” is a group offered by the Youth Trauma Program at Saint Anne’s Hospital as a way to teach self-regulation to boys and girls ages 8-12 with a history of trauma and their caregivers. Self-regulation is the ability to adjust one’s level of arousal/alertness and how to display behavior and emotions for the given situation. The group focuses on helping children affected by trauma and caregivers categorize their feelings and emotional states, using a shared language, in order to recognize and communicate this in a safe way.
The group’s co-leaders, Stephanie Sturdahl, MSW, LICSW, a Youth Trauma Program clinician specially trained in trauma-focused treatment, and pediatric occupational therapist Andrea Hopps, OTR/L, of the hospital’s Fernandes Center for Children & Families, explain that the group uses a curriculum called the “Zones of Regulation.”
This approach is designed to address underlying deficits in emotional and sensory regulation to help children gain skills with regulating their actions. This self-regulation leads to increased control and problem-solving abilities.
Sturdahl explains that some of the tools used in “Stop, Slow, Go” include the use of certain food textures, scents/smells, and movement activities to help parents and children learn to manage their energy levels. “Certain sensory tools can help calm or alert one’s energy levels, so that children are able to better attend and focus,” she says.
Ultimately, says Sturdahl, “Having parents and children participate together in ‘Stop, Slow, Go’ helps to foster attachment and attunement. It allows caregivers to learn how to read and reflect on their child’s experience and teaches them to co-regulate with their child, so the child in turn learns to better self-regulate.”
“Stop, Slow, Go” is an eight-week group that begins on October 16, 4:30-5:30 p.m., at Saint Anne’s Hospital. There is no charge, but advance registration is required.
Referrals to this or other Youth Trauma Program services are welcome. To learn more, or to register for “Stop, Slow, Go,” contact Stephanie Sturdahl, MSW, LICSW, 508-674-5600, ext. 2281.
About the Youth Trauma Program: Established in 1984, the Youth Trauma Program provides evaluation and counseling services to child/adolescent victims of sexual or physical abuse, neglect and those who have lost a loved one to homicide or experienced other trauma, including violence at home, among peers, or in the community. The program services children and young adults, ages birth to 21 and their families. Services include individual and family therapy; trauma assessments; specialized counseling to children with developmental disabilities who have been maltreated; community outreach and education; and group therapy. The program also offers services to non-offending family members. All services are provided free of charge at Saint Anne’s Hospital. The program is partially supported by the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance (MOVA) through a 1984 Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant from the Office of Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, and the U.S. Department of Justice.