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RAISE The Standard, March 2023, v.9 n.4

RAISE (The National Resources for Access, Independence, Self-determination and Employment (RAISE) Technical Assistance Center) logo

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Trauma-Informed Transition Planning

"Sometimes, even to live is an act of bravery."

- Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Transition services delivered through a trauma-informed lens can help better prepare students for adult life. A trauma-informed approach offers a common language, and an understanding of how to approach situations in a way that is supportive.

Research shows that people with a disability are more likely to be exposed to trauma than a person without a disability. People with developmental or intellectual disabilities (I/DD), in particular, are even likely to experience trauma in the form of abuse or assault compared to peers without I/DD, and may have limited capacity for resilience or healing. In addition, students in the foster care system, American Indians, Alaska Native students, refugee students, and students who identify as LGBTQ are at a greater risk of trauma.

In addition, students with disabilities are more likely to be subjected to restraints/seclusion which can be experienced as trauma. According USDOE, these procedures are ineffective in modifying behaviors that are related to a student's disability.

Not only are youth with disabilities more likely to have experienced traumatic events, they are likely experience more of them. For that reason, building resilience is one of the key factors in battling the long-term effects of trauma.

Trauma can have a significant impact on employment outcomes. Individuals with a history of childhood trauma are more likely to be underemployed or unemployed. The unemployment rate for individuals who reported at least one Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) is significantly higher than for those who reported no ACEs. Researchers have found that individuals who experienced ACEs achieved one year less of education than individuals without a history of trauma. They are less likely to be employed, but even when they are employed, they earn almost $8,000 a year less than their counterparts without trauma history.

Video grab from Edutopia - South Asian teen girl speaking in group therapy.

In this issue of RAISE The Standard, we explore the impact of trauma on transition planning and outcomes, and what service providers and other professionals can do to best support youth who have experience trauma.

Click here to access an Edutopia video to learn more about the relationship between trauma and special education.

What IS Trauma?

Trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or threatening, and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual's functioning and physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.

What are the Three "Es" of Trauma?

  • Events (and circumstances): May include the actual or extreme threat of physical or psychological harm (i.e., natural disasters, violence, etc.) or severe, life-threatening neglect for a child that impairs healthy development. This may occur as a single occurrence or repeatedly over time.

  • Experience: A particular event may be perceived as traumatic for one individual and not for another. Feelings of humiliation, shame, guilt, betrayal, or silencing often shape the experience of the event.

  • Effects: The adverse effects of trauma may occur immediately, or may have a delayed onset.

  • From (SAMSHA's Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach)


Dani Bostick speaking at her TEDxGreenville Talk

Meet Dani Bostick

For a personal perspective on trauma and how it affects a person across the lifespan, we turn to Dani Bostick for her TEDxGreenville talk. Dani shares her own experience with trauma, underscores how important it is for educators to learn about trauma, and how it is vital that we work to become allies.

"I share my story, so others can share theirs."

"Trauma is a lot like gravity. It pervades every aspect of your life."

"I don't have any memory of my trauma. I just have feelings."

Click here to access the video.


Black female therapist working with black female teen, both looking very serious and sad

Secondary Trauma

Working with trauma-exposed youth can cause secondary traumatic stress for educators, social workers, and other professionals. Studies show that 6% to 26% of therapists working with traumatized populations, and up to 50% of child welfare workers, are at an elevated risk of secondary traumatic stress.

Q: What is secondary traumatic stress?

A: Secondary traumatic stress is not new. It has been called many things: compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, or burn out. The term refers to the emotional duress that results when an individual hears about the firsthand trauma experiences of another.

Q: What are some of the symptoms and conditions associated with secondary traumatic stress?

A: Secondary trauma can parallel the symptoms of in vivo trauma. Professionals affected by secondary stress may find themselves re-experiencing their own personal trauma, or noticing an increase in arousal and/or avoidance reactions related to the indirect trauma exposure. They may also experience changes in memory and perception; alterations in their sense of self-efficacy; depletion of personal resources; and disruption in their perceptions of safety, trust, and independence. Symptoms and conditions include:

  • Hypervigilance
  • Hopelessness
  • Inability to embrace complexity
  • Inability to listen, avoidance of clients
  • Anger and cynicism
  • Sleeplessness
  • Fear
  • Chronic exhaustion
  • Physical ailments
  • Minimizing
  • Guilt

Q: What is the impact of secondary trauma on clients and students?

A: Providers and educators cannot provide comprehensive, compassionate care if they are emotionally depleted or cognitively affected themselves. Some traumatized professionals, believing they can no longer be of service to their clients, end up leaving their jobs or the serving field altogether.

Q: How can educators build resiliency?

A: Educators and other school professionals need to be able to take care of themselves in order to support youth who have been exposed to trauma. Preventive strategies may include self-report assessments, participation in self-care groups in the workplace, caseload balancing, use of flextime scheduling, and use of the self-care accountability buddy system. Proper rest, nutrition, exercise, and stress reduction activities are also important in preventing secondary

traumatic stress

Q: How can schools and organizations support professionals working with transition age youth?

A: There are ways to build resilience and address secondary traumatic stress at both the individual and the organizational level. Schools and organizations that address secondary trauma benefit by having a healthy and functioning workforce. This is critical to delivering quality services. Some practices that support this healthy workforce include:

  • Cognitive behavioral interventions
  • Mindfulness training
  • Reflective supervision
  • Caseload adjustment
  • Informal gatherings following crisis events (to allow for voluntary, spontaneous discussions)
  • Change in job assignment or workgroup
  • Referrals to Employee Assistance Programs or outside agencies

Click here to read the fact sheet from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, Secondary Traumatic Stress Committee.


Meeting involving teachers and family members

Suggested Practices for the IEP Team

We turn to a blog post at Kennedy Kreiger Institute for content on how to bring trauma informed practices in the IEP Meeting

  1. Preview the IEP documents and agenda. It is legally required to send notification of the IEP meeting, a list of invited attendees, and a draft of documents to be discussed to the parents and/or legal guardians of the student. For a family that is struggling with traumatic stress, reaching out and having a brief meeting to prepare for the more potentially stressful IEP meeting may help create a sense of empowerment and ease. Ensure that the parent(s) understand what will be happening and why. Encourage them to consider and write down any questions they may have for the other IEP team members; this will help build a sense of control and empowerment.
  2. Clearly and calmly set the intention for the meeting, as well as the agenda. Helping the family have clear expectations of what will occur in the meeting can alleviate stress and help build relationships. Not sticking to the pre-set agenda has the potential to harm relationships and trust, and to trigger a stress response. If the IEP team encounters a topic in need of discussion that was not pre-determined by the agenda, it may be best to schedule an additional meeting.
  3. Anticipate and carefully address any potentially triggering information that needs to be shared. This can most easily be done if the IEP team is aware of the traumatic events that impacted the family. Conversations with the mental health professionals in the IEP team (i.e., school psychologist and/or social worker) may help the rest of the team to consider what might cause family members additional stress and consider ways to address these topics. If an IEP member becomes visibly distressed during a meeting, it is okay to suggest taking a break or reconvening at another time. Keep in mind that sharing detailed information about previous history or traumatic events may not be necessary for the team to identify appropriate supports to address in an IEP. Ask the parent and/or student what information they are comfortable with being shared with the team.
  4. Be mindful of your tone and body language. Many parents perceive the IEP meeting as a place in which the school staff have more power. This perceived power differential can cause additional stress and difficulty for families who have experienced trauma. Keeping a friendly, calm, and even tone can help to reduce worries related to dealing with authority figures, as can body language that is open and non-threatening.
  5. Empower parents with frequent opportunities to actively engage during the IEP meeting. Honoring parents' voices and giving choices throughout the meeting helps restore the family's sense of personal power and change the perceived power differential. While all service providers are expected to come to meetings prepared with recommendations, be sure to engage parents by asking for their input about the recommendations or for additional suggestions. Experiencing trauma can tax a person's problem-solving capabilities. For some parents, it may be overwhelming to think of new strategies or recommendations. As an option, provide the family with an opportunity to choose from goals or services that may be appropriate. Engaging the parent in the meeting as the expert on their child and earnestly seeking their input as a thought partner, helps the family make active steps to counteract the sense of powerlessness trauma often leaves families feeling.

Click here to read the full blog post.


Graphic illustration of two women talking in a therapeutic setting

Communications and Trauma

People with a history of trauma have some common communication patterns. They may:

  • Speak in defensive and intimidating ways
  • Tell lies, that are large, outright and outrageous, as well as white lies
  • Hide authentic expressions; say "yes" when they mean "no"
  • Have difficulty setting limits

Trauma can produce a "fight, flight, freeze" response, both in the moment, and if triggered. Logic, reason, and calm go out the door.

When a person is in a "trauma place," communication can be highly emotional – desperate, chaotic, dysregulated. To get back to a place of regulation, self-control, and reason, caregivers can do three things:

  • Keep it simple
  • Keep is straight to the point
  • Keep it short

Click here to watch a short video by Dr. Aimie Apigian about how to have a conversation when you or the other person are in "their trauma place."


There are eight (8) Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) Parent Centers throughout the US that provide training and programming to youth/young adults with disabilities and their families, professionals, and other PTIs and CPRCs on the issues surrounding youth transition.


RSA Parent Centers are funded by the Rehabilitation Service Administration (RSA) under the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), which is part of the US Department of Education.


In this issue, meet Waze to Adulthood (PEATC). WAZE to Adulthood is an RSA-funded project of Virginia's Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center (PEATC) aimed at providing youth/young adults with disabilities, their families, and those professionals who serve them, with up-to-date, high-quality resources, information, and training to meet their diverse needs. PEATC, as the Region B1 RSA Parent Center, works in collaboration with parent training centers and other disability organizations throughout the 6-state region that includes Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida, to identify and to address state-specific gaps in services and systems to help improve long-term outcomes for individuals with disabilities.

While they offer many resources here is ONE to check out:

Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid in Transition Planning


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Resilience: Build Skills to endure hardships. Click here to access the Mayo Clinic page on resilience:

Trauma Informed Care Toolkit for Youth Service Providers

Trauma-Informed Care Toolkit for Youth Service Providers - Webinar

Trauma-Informed Practices for Post-Secondary Education

Capacity Building Center for Tribes

Trauma Informed Practices in Preparing for Postschool Employment Success

Trauma and Specific Populations

Federation for Children with Special Needs: Fact sheet on Trauma Sensitivity During the IEP Process

Trauma-Informed Guiding Principles for Working with Transition Age Youth


capitol icon with text 'news from the capitol'

The U.S. Department of Labor has selected 10 states and the District of Columbia to participate as "core states" in its National Expansion of Employment Opportunities Network initiative (NEON). The states are California, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, New York, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.

The initiative will help connect government agencies in those states to consulting, support for capacity-building, and ongoing mentoring as they seek to increase competitive integrated employment for individuals with disabilities.

In January 2022, NEON released the National Plan to Increase Competitive Integrated Employment concert with five national provider organizations:

Click here to access the NEON report.


March 15, 2023

2:00PM – 3:30PM

Helping Native Youth Succeed through Family and Community Engagement

The Department of Education's Office of Indian Education, along with ODEP and the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Native Americans and Strengthening Tribal Colleges and Universities is hosting a 4-part virtual dialogue series that addresses multiple topics that impact employment for American Indians and Alaska Natives. This event, the second virtual dialogue of this series, provides perspectives from Native individuals (including youth) on the values of community-driven solutions in supporting Native students with disabilities. Speakers from various tribal nations will explore culturally informed strategies that help address the lack of community-driven approaches that often fall short in addressing the needs of Native youth.

Click here to register.

May 16, 2023

9:00AM – 1:00PM

Paychecks, Not Pity - Hilton Charlotte University Place, Charlotte, NC.

The National RAISE Center will be hosting its 9th Summit in Charlotte, NC. It will be a time for leadership development, networking and team building. This summit will focus on developing and strengthening relationships with key partners to improve transition outcomes. The sessions will include:

  • A Young Adult Showcase: Join members from the RAISE Youth Advocates for Change (YAC) to learn about the youth focused work they have been doing throughout the year around employment and transition. Get practical takeaways and resources to share with the families and youth you serve.
  • MPACT Presentation “Walking the Walk: Recommendations for Experience-Focused Transition Programming”: This presentation shares results from a national survey jointly designed by RAISE and MPACT on impactful transition activities for positive postschool outcomes and adult satisfaction ratings. We will share recommendations based on our key finding that transition experiences must be central to transition programming.
  • RSA Parent Centers spotlight: Each Regional RSA Parent Center has been working to develop technical assistance and products that will be helpful in supporting parent centers, families, and youth in their region during transition. During the session, each RSA PC will share a product that is available online that could be useful during the transition process.

Click here for the agenda and to access the registration link.

RAISE The Standard

Collaboration • Empowerment • Capacity-building

RAISE The Standard enewsletter identifies and shares resources that the Rehabilitation Services Administration Parent Training and Information Centers (RSA-PTI) can use and share with families.

Executive Editor:

Josie Badger

Visit our Website:

The RAISE Technical Assistance Center is working to advance the accessibility of its digital resources, including its websites, enewsletters and various digital documents.

* For more on SPAN Parent Advocacy Network and all of the complementary programs supported, visit


RAISE, the National Resources for Access, Independence, Self-Advocacy and Employment is a user-centered technical assistance center that understands the needs and assets of the RSA-PTIs, coordinates efforts with the Technical Assistance provided by PTI centers and involves RSA-PTIs as key advisors and partners in all product and service development and delivery.

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The RAISE Center is a project of the SPAN Parent Advocacy Network and is funded by the US Department of Education's Rehabilitation Service Administration. The contents of this resource were developed under a cooperative agreement with the US Department of Education (H235G200007)). However, the contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education and should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

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