Trauma is an increasing presence in our children’s lives, whether it’s personal trauma such as serious illness, physical abuse or poverty, or “secondary trauma,” such as witnessing domestic violence, having an incarcerated parent or living with an addict. As a result, we can’t expect children to come into the classroom ready to learn, behave and function “normally.”
Instead, we must view their behaviors in light of possible trauma, and adapt our thinking to accommodate it.
For most families, the achievement of a milestone such as a child making his own bed, putting on her own shirt or tying his shoes is exciting, but often taken for granted. For the families with whom I work, however, these types of milestones are often unimaginable.
When it comes to school, some kids kind of live on the edge. And that can be a pretty tough place, for them, their parents and their teachers.
The kids I’m talking about have mild intellectual or developmental disabilities that result in disruptive behaviors. They’re capable of learning, but their behaviors make it difficult for them to sit in a classroom and difficult for a teacher to focus on a whole classroom full of kids. That’s why they live on the edge: They are close to staying in the classroom, but also close to having their parents asked to find another option.
Most families would find it difficult to imagine the challenges facing a family when a child has a developmental disability. They might find it even harder to imagine being able to rally the relentless hope and perseverance that, sometimes, can help that child grow into a bright and energetic person.
Angel has severe autism and has a history of running off. His lack of verbal communication is extremely challenging and can be dangerous. If Angel was lost or injured, he would have no way to communicate his needs.
Brittney Kalmas has been with Damar for 10 years. She leads a team of master level clinicians providing one-on-one services for Damar clients. Kalmas says the work/life balance and daily reminders of the impact she’s making is why her role at Damar is remarkable.
From the entry-level employee to the clinical specialist, and from the Direct Care Technician to the Accountant, every one of us can say, “I don’t just work at Damar … I am Damar. I make a difference.”