30 June, 2022 | Posted by Michelle Hogan

Dr Judith Butler: What Does it Mean to be Trauma-Sensitive in Early Childhood?

Portobello Institute Early Years Webinar Series

“Every day we have children who are coming with far more than just their lunch box in their bag.” - Dr Judith Butler.

Dr Judith Butler is a Trauma-Sensitive and Relationship-Based Approaches Expert in Early Childhood Care and Education.

She spoke at the first in a series of expert-led webinars delivered by Portobello Institute discussing important topics in Early Childhood Education.

You can rewatch the recording of the webinar led by Dr Butler, here.

With extensive education and expertise, Dr Butler is striving to create trauma-sensitive experiences for all children who attend early years settings.

“The aim is to highlight the need for early childhood educators to become trauma-sensitive.  

"The word trauma can be quite misleading, it means different things to different people, it can mean a car crash or the A&E, the trauma room, but what I am talking about with trauma I am referring to toxic stress. 

“Essentially what that means is prolonged stress, it’s when you don’t have somebody there to buffer the impact or someone who makes you feel safe. That’s when the stress becomes toxic or what we call trauma.  

“We know that children are hugely impacted by toxic stress, their brains and their bodies are just developing and they are especially sensitive to repeated trauma.  

“You might have heard of the term adverse childhood experiences, that is something I am going to be covering in the presentation.  

“There are a number of key experiences that a child can encounter that does impact on how they behave, impacts how they think and how they act, how they build and maintain relationships and I’m hoping to increase the understanding of key elements surrounding trauma-sensitive practice.

“At the end of the day as an early childhood care and educator by default, we are almost trauma-sensitive. There is something very special about early childhood educators, they are kind, they are caring, they are warm and compassionate.

“These would be the key principles of being trauma-sensitive anyway.

“The real reason why I am striving for this is because adverse childhood experiences are common.

“Every day coming into our settings, we have children who are coming with far more than just their lunch box in their bag.

“They have lots of things on their shoulders and in their minds. We can do a lot as early childhood care and educators to help and to improve children’s experiences in school or while they are with us.  

“They can take the skills they learn with us back to a home where the experience maybe not be as positive as we would like them to be.

“My interest in the topic that I am teaching today would have stemmed from my PhD looking at the social domain of children’s development and particularly relationships and what we can do to foster and enhance responsive relationships with adults and the children and between children in the classroom as well in the learning environment,” she said.

Dr Judith Butler graduated from UCC with a PhD having gained prior qualifications in Montessori Teaching (birth- 12 years), Special Education and a first-class (Hons) in Early Childhood Studies from UCC.

She has completed Trauma Practitioner Training including; Trauma Responsive Practice in Education, Trauma-Informed Resilient Schools and Children of Trauma & Resilience. 

Get in Contact 

If you are interested in following your passion and fulfilling your potential in early years visit our department page to view our upcoming courses here.

If you have any questions you can contact our Early Years Admissions Expert, Jennifer Matteazzi at jennifer.matteazzi@portobelloinstitute.com or call 01 892 0031 or book a 15 minute one-to-one consultation with her here.

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