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Trauma is pervasive in how we navigate our day-to-day lives. We all have learned adaptations from negative experiences, and they affect our behavior. To provide more effective and better quality care, we must acknowledge how trauma shows up in those we care for.
Trauma-informed care is, by definition, less prescriptive than most behavior management protocols. It involves more person-centered practices and invites us to consider the importance of people’s past and its impact on their present.
Implementing trauma-informed care in your practice isn’t a one-and-done. It’s an approach that requires integration into all aspects of your services. It requires innovative thinking and a willingness to consider new approaches.
“Innovative ways to incorporate trauma-informed care into your practice” can seem like a lot to swallow. That’s why I’ve broken it down in this post. Broadly speaking, trauma-informed innovations fit into two categories, (1) training and (2) technology.
I’ll talk about training first. Our understanding of human psychology is evolving every day but our approaches to care have been fairly consistent for decades. Most caregivers and clinicians’ education doesn’t incorporate the most recent advances in our knowledge base. That said, plenty of practitioners out there are trying out new ways of thinking and new techniques to improve quality of life for people receiving care.
Among these innovative thinkers we have Peter Marks from a Centre for Conscious Care. He is a member of Faculty at the University of Toronto and is affiliated with Harvard Medical School and the Center for Discovery in New York. Peter and his team created the Conscious Care and Support program (CCS) to enhance the lives of people with autism and other developmental disabilities to be all they can be.
One of the pillars of the CCS program is training care teams of people with IDD. The program teaches care teams to recognize the varying needs of the people they support and to consider them all in their approach to care. For example, is the person experiencing a medical issue that has yet to be addressed? Do they have a history of trauma and how does it impact their ability to self-regulate?
Peter and his team firmly believe that by helping care teams develop a more complete understanding of the needs of the people they support, they can provide more consistent and compassionate care.
Another example of an innovative thinker is Dr. Kolu at Cusp Emergence. She has taken a deep dive into what it means to be trauma-informed and has ingrained it in her ABA practice. We had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Kolu a few years ago.
IDD care is a very high-touch field where relationships between people and their supporters play an outsized role in people’s success. As such, technology is not often thought of as a solution to enhance support for people with IDD, yet there is so much potential for it to have an impact.
Providing care for people with IDD can be complex. Dual-diagnoses are not uncommon in this population and we have previously written about the prevalence of trauma and its impact on behavior. Environmental, social and biomedical factors can all play a role in triggering stress and behaviors. In high-touch care settings it can be incredibly difficult to discern what is going on.
Patterns in people’s behaviors may emerge over time, providing that supporters are collecting the right data and that the care team has the resources to analyze it. Technology has the potential to improve our insights by helping us put together patterns more quickly.
Electronic Health Record software is a good example of this. By consolidating data and amalgamating the knowledge from a whole support team in one place, we can accelerate our learning and enhance our support.
Wearables are another technology that can have a meaningful impact for people with IDD. They give us an opportunity to passively collect a variety of objective data. For example, most wearables track heart rate which can be used to understand if someone is in fight-or-flight mode. They can also be used to track sleep quality, which is closely connected to mental health.