Post-Katrina Trauma Recovery Process in Children

From Lauren, a friend of mine and a native to New Orleans:

Post-Katrina, I worked with kindergarten and fifth grade students. Art turned out to be one of the most beneficial aids in addressing and even diagnosing PTSD in children. Crayons, markers, paints, finger paints, and even creating clay sculptures of jewelry all helped. In some cases, the jewelry was sold and proceeds went to developing a playground. Since so many schools lost their play equipment, just having outdoor play equipment (or not having it) impacted the children and their behaviors tremendously.

Acting/drama/singing was another tool that proved useful. At first, it was serious stuff dealing with the storm, during, after, etc. Later, acting became their outlet to relieve stress and help others understand their personal views and emotions.

Free writing and writing on specific topics helped children address issues they were facing (such as living in FEMA trailers) or dig deeper into issues that were important to them (both free writing and writing on specific topics were helpful in their own ways).

Children like to feel like they are a part of the recovery process and are making a difference. We did things like toy and clothes drives for students who lost everything. In some cases the kids who lost a lot of “stuff” still wanted to share what they had with friends who lost more.

Any sense of normalcy is also helpful. They liked special treatment and privileges, visits from dignitaries and media, but one thing that almost all of the children said they really liked about school was that it was predictable, familiar, and had a sense of normalcy. Some students said that their favorite times were those spent at school because they could forget about living in a FEMA trailer (with eight other people) and about what had happened.

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