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Apr 9, 2020 |
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This is the second post of a three-part series about emotional and behavioral regulation in learning environments. You can find the first post here.

In Behind the behaviors: Trauma-informed education, we talked about what trauma is. While understanding trauma is important, it’s even more important to recognize when someone may be experiencing or have experienced significant trauma. 

NCFL’s mission is to eradicate poverty through education solutions for families. In theory, every family served by one of our programs has endured trauma. Poverty is traumatic. Finding one’s self in a foreign country with limited ways to communicate is traumatic. Uncertainty about basic needs is traumatic. 

As discussed in the first installment of this series, empathy and getting to know learners is essential. It’s the first step in helping them develop coping strategies for their behaviors. And, using a lens of empathy—viewing a person who is dysregulated as a victim of trauma—might be the next step that helps us get to the ‘why’. Without trust, that’s unlikely to happen.

According to Psychology Today, “Unaddressed developmental trauma can manifest in many ways. The most common psychological diagnoses that follow are: bipolar disorder, personality disorders (especially borderline), ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, learning disabilities, social disabilities, addictions, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, complex PTSD, PTSD, and so forth.” Anyone in PK-12 education can attest to the growth of these diagnoses in our students. Consequently, we see an uptick in the behaviors associated with these disorders. Child Family Community Australia defined emotional dysregulation as, “...when a child experiences difficulty with registering emotions, responding with emotions appropriate to context and regulating emotional responses in social situations (i.e., suppressing emotions or presenting with overly dramatic and excessive emotional responses).

We constantly see this in the PK-12 classroom. Learners who distract others, outburst, fail to follow directions, and the one who is in constant motion—these are all expressions of dysregulation. When we work with emotionally impaired children in the school setting, we use applied behavioral analysis to find the root cause of a behavior. Keeping data—which is time-consuming and sometimes biased, depending on the observer—might provide insight, but is often a long and drawn-out process. By meeting the needs of the learner in the classroom, we are sending a message to that child—and the others in the class—that it’s okay to have bad days, and it’s okay to not understand how to react sometimes. There it is—that empathy and relationship-building. 

By establishing expectations for classrooms, we’re able to identify those that struggle with abiding by them by simply watching and gathering information about our learners. Their responses need replacement behaviors until the learner is able to recognize and name emotions as well as how they feel in their body. We need to know what baseline—a non-agitated state—looks like for our learners before we can have important conversations about their non-preferred behaviors. We’ll be talking about that in our next Ed Solutions blog post. 

Share an instance where showing empathy or meeting the needs of the learner resulted in a more positive outcome in the comments below.


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NCFL Partners

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Toyota, one of the nation's most successful corporations, began a partnership with NCFL in 1991. In addition to a commitment of more than $50 million, Toyota has also contributed a wealth of in-kind support — including advertising, planning and management expertise — to form one of the most progressive corporate/nonprofit partnerships in the nation.

Three major programs have been developed through the Toyota partnership based on the family literacy model of parents and children learning together. These models have influenced federal and state legislation, leveraged local dollars to support family literacy and led to successful programs being replicated across the country.

Read more about Toyota's commitment to communities

William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

NCFL received its very first donation in 1989 from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust to promote and implement family literacy programming, first in Kentucky and North Carolina and later nationwide. The Kenan Family Literacy Model in part laid the groundwork for 30 years of subsequent family literacy and family learning programming developed by NCFL.

Kenan has continued to support NCFL’s place-based family literacy programs since our inception. Most recently, it has invested in our organization’s Sharon Darling Innovation Fund, which will launch emerging ideas and programmatic evolutions in the multigenerational learning space.

Learn more about the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

Dollar General Literacy Foundation

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation began partnering with NCFL in 2006. A signature effort of this partnership is the National Literacy Directory, a resource that launched in 2010 and strives to guide potential students and volunteers to literacy services, community education programs, and testing centers in their communities.

The National Literacy Directory contains over 10,000 educational agencies located across the United States and has a dedicated toll-free number to help support those wanting to pursue educational opportunities in their communities.

Dollar General also provides support for development of NCFL’s innovative family learning resources centered on financial literacy and Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®.

Learn more about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation

PNC Grow Up Great

PNC Grow Up Great believes deeply in the power of high-quality early childhood education and provides innovative opportunities that assist families, educators and community organizations to enhance children's learning and development.

PNC Grow Up Great has partnered with NCFL since 1994, most recently in Louisville, Kentucky, to support Say & Play with Words, our pre-Kindergarten vocabulary-building initiative.

NCFL's work is also featured on the PNC Grow Up Great Lesson Center website. The Lesson Center includes over 100 free, high-quality preschool lesson plans and research-based instructional techniques and strategies. All lesson plans contain Home/School Connections printouts, in English and Spanish, to help families extend and reinforce the learning at home.

Learn more about PNC Grow Up Great

U.S. Department of Education

Initiated through the U.S. Department of Education in 2018, the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFEC) program provides 12 grantees and 13 states with five-year, $5 million grants to promote and implement systemic evidenced-based family engagement strategies. NCFL was selected to lead SFECs in two states, Arizona and Nebraska, and is a primary partner for two other SFECs in Kentucky and Maryland/Pennsylvania. 

The SFECs work to support family engagement through state- and local-level agencies while providing both professional development to school districts and direct services to families related to children’s academic outcomes and overall well-being.

Learn more about the U.S. Department of Education

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

NCFL was named a recipient of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s "Voices for Economic Opportunity Grand Challenge," which seeks to elevate diverse voices in order to broaden the conversation about the issues inhibiting economic mobility and generate deeper awareness along with actionable understanding. NCFL will develop and launch a podcast series that will highlight the remarkable stories of low-income, diverse families across the U.S. who have improved their communities through Family Service Learning.

Foundation Website