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Developmental Trauma Disorder Field Trial Study

Seneca is proud to collaborate with the Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute on an exciting research project focused on improving the quality of care for youth who have experienced interpersonal trauma.  The Developmental Trauma Disorder field trial study aims to expand trauma-related services for children by developing a diagnostic picture that more accurately captures the cluster of symptoms that we see in children who have experienced complex and chronic trauma.  Youth who struggle with multiple, recurring traumatic exposures comprise the largest group of clients served by our agency.  In working directly with these children, Seneca has learned that trauma can often present as depression, anxiety, truancy, behavioral disorders, social skill deficits, learning disorders, drug abuse, hyperactivity, or behavioral regression.  Yet at this time, no diagnosis exists that appropriately reflects the range of social, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms for children who have experienced complex trauma.  As a result, children affected by trauma are often misdiagnosed which leads to ineffective and, in some cases, harmful treatments.  The Developmental Trauma Disorder diagnosis will provide practitioners and clinicians with a framework to understand and treat underlying causes rather than emphasizing problem elimination and behavioral control without considering the function of the behavior.

As part of Seneca’s commitment to improving the treatment of children who have experienced chronic trauma, members of the All In! Partnership Project clinical team have volunteered to gather data for the Developmental Trauma Disorder field trial study.  The goals of the field trial study are closely aligned with a main tenet of All In: in order to provide unconditional education, schools must develop and implement trauma-informed education practices.  The All In clinical team works closely with schools to establish a school culture that recognizes the prevalence of trauma in our communities, understands the connection between trauma and a child’s presentation, addresses potential triggers in the environment that can activate a child who has experienced trauma, and responds by acknowledging that the behaviors represent a trauma-based survival strategy.  Seneca and the All In team views treatment as a process that involves all adults that interact with a child, from individual family members to mental health clinicians, from school staff and administrators to coaches and after-school caregivers.  Seneca looks forward to future collaboration opportunities that further the mission of educating all community service providers about the impact of trauma on children and implementing best practices regarding care and treatment.

Additional information about Developmental Trauma Disorder can be found at traumacenter.org through the following links.