Trauma | Kay Trotter

By Appointment : Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm & Saturday 8am to Noon
  Contact : (214) 499-0396

All Posts Tagged: Trauma

History Making Bill…Animal Assisted Therapy Law

On October 1st 2013 Connecticut will make history by enacting the FIRST Animal Assisted Therapy Bill

As the first bill of its kinds Connecticut realized the emotional and psychology benefits of including an animal in the mental health therapy treatment process.

Some of the bill highlights include

  • Training  individuals on (1) the healing value of the human-animal bond 
for children, (2) the value of therapy animals in dealing with 
traumatic situations, and (3) the benefit of an animal assisted therapy 
  • Collaboration with mental health 
care providers to incorporate animal assisted therapy into the therapy for children and youth.
  • Develop a coordinated volunteer canine crisis response team for crisis intervention.
  • Develop a results based 
accountability assessment of the results of animal assisted programs.

Below is the complete Connecticut Animal Assisted Therapy Bill 

History Making Bill Signed by Connecticut Governor – here is the actual bill


Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2013) (a) For purposes of this 
section, “animal assisted therapy” means goal-directed intervention in 
which animals are used as an integral part of the treatment process for 
individuals who have experienced mental, physical or emotional trauma and “animal assisted therapy community” 
means the local or regional entities possessing the staff and 
capabilities to engage in animal assisted therapy including, but not 
limited to, the Connecticut Humane Society, Soul Friends, Inc. and 
Animal Assisted Therapy Services, Inc.

(b) Not later than 
January 1, 2014, the Commissioner of Children and Families, within 
available appropriations, shall develop and implement training for 
certain employees of the Department of Children and Families and mental 
health care providers, on (1) the healing value of the human-animal bond 
for children, (2) the value of therapy animals in dealing with 
traumatic situations, and (3) the benefit of an animal assisted therapy 

(c) Not later than January 1, 2014, the Commissioner 
of Children and Families, in consultation with the Governor’s Prevention
Partnership and the animal assisted therapy community and within available appropriations, shall develop and operate, or contract for, an
animal assisted therapy program. Such program shall: (1) Provide animal
 assisted therapy to children and youths living with trauma and loss; 
(2) provide animal assisted therapy to children and youths with 
behavioral health needs who are in the custody of the Department of 
Children and Families; (3) allow for collaboration with mental health 
care providers to incorporate animal assisted therapy into the therapy 
plan for youths or children; (4) promote the healing benefits of the 
human-animal bond by providing interactive empathetic training 
activities with therapy animals; (5) incorporate nonverbal learning into
the formulation of trauma treatment modalities; and (6) demonstrate 
positive outcomes for children.

(d) Not later than January 1, 
2014, the Commissioner of Children and Families, in consultation with 
the Commissioner of Agriculture and within available appropriations, 
shall develop a coordinated volunteer canine crisis response team. Such 
team shall consist of various handlers and canines that have been 
trained and certified to provide comfort and relief to individuals 
during and after traumatic events. Such team shall operate on a 
volunteer basis and shall be available to provide animal assisted 
therapy within twenty-four hours of receiving notice to do so.

(e) Not later than January 1, 2014, the Commissioner of Children and 
Families, in consultation with the Commissioner of Agriculture and the 
joint standing committee on children, shall develop a results based 
accountability assessment of the results of the programs implemented 
pursuant to subsections (b) to (d), inclusive, of this section to (1) 
determine the effectiveness of animal assisted therapy, (2) begin the 
process of identifying curriculum-based animal assisted therapy as a 
potential best practice approach, and (3) demonstrate positive outcome 
measures in hopefulness, tied to resilience in the literature and other 
social emotional measures of healthy child development.


Read More

Boston Marathon Bombing Helping Children Cope

Boston bombing 4-15013

After yesterdays (April 15, 2013) trauma events at the Boston Marathon its important for adult and parent to know how to help children reeling from the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing especially since many children are easily overwhelmed with fear. In response to a  some children react with severe emotional responses — fear, grief, post-traumatic stress. Moreover, such experiences and other events that threaten a child’s sense of worth and well-being can produce intense personal distress.

Until things calm down after yesterdays bombing, it will be normal for your child to show signs of worry and fear. They may have trouble eating or sleeping.

Two weeks from now, if your child still isn’t eating or sleeping normally, or shows other warning signs such as extreme irritability, melancholy, lethargy and reluctance toward or fear of activities he or she once enjoyed, call your pediatrician or seek counseling for your child.

Its important for parents to create a sense of safety for your children 

Provide Caring and Support – Listen to your child’s concerns and answer their questions in direct, factual, age-appropriate ways. (Be careful of giving TOO MUCH information, especially with younger children.)

Children around 5 and younger don’t need to know. Very young children will only recently have mastered the skills of walking and talking, and they may not be able to express their anxieties and fears. Although you may think they are too young to understand what is happening, even very young children can absorb frightening events from the news or from conversations they overhear. Don’t let them watch news stories while they’re in the room. Wait for them to ask about what happened. If they don’t ask, continue business as usual.

Older children are likely to ask questions. You can initiate a conversation by saying, “I know you’re hearing and seeing a lot about what happened at the Boston Marathon bombing. How does this make you feel?” Or select pictures in a book or ask the children to draw pictures to express feelings. Then talk about the pictures. Take the lead from the child as to how much they need to talk about and know about the situation. Keep answers to questions simple, giving only what is needed.

Listen to comments of children as they play. 

Are there clues here that need further conversation?

When there is a situation outside of the home that is frightening, limit the amount of news your children watch or listen to. You don’t need to hide what’s happening in the world from your children, but neither do they have to be exposed to constant stories that fuel their fears. Children may have trouble distinguishing between TV shows that blow up buildings, and the factual news reports of a tragic event. Explain, “Yes, this really did happen. It is a sad time, but we will come through it.”

Realize that extra stresses may heighten normal daily stresses. Your children might normally be able to handle a failed test or teasing, but be understanding that they may respond with anger or bad behavior to stress that normally wouldn’t rattle them. Reassure them that you just expect them to do their best.

Two main questions children are likely to think about, whether they actually ask them or not, are: “Could this happen to me or to someone I love?” Remember that a young child cannot understand, “We just have to trust in God.” They trust in parents, and parents are supposed to protect them. So, while the answers are never easy, again try to keep them simple. “We don’t expect this to ever happen to you or anyone you love. You are always loved and have a loving circle of family and friends.” People sometimes choose to do bad things.”

Be careful what you say in front of children. Keep your emotions in check. If we are lamenting the state of the world and saying things like “I’m afraid to go anywhere anymore,” children will start to feel the world is indeed a scary place.

Expressing Feelings – Provide opportunities for your child to express their feelings. Use toys, puppets, books, music, water play, play dough, painting, and puzzles (creating order out of chaos). Let your child know that you have some of the same feelings they have. Be honest about your feelings, but temper them. Encourage your child to communicate their thoughts and feelings. But balance is again the key: Don’t let the talk escalate and overwhelm children.

Provide Opportunities for Meaningful Participation – Help your child come up with ways they can address the crisis themselves: i.e., raising money, sending cards and letters, forming a Peace Club. Participation gives children a sense of purpose and competence in their own lives and a belief that they can make a positive impact on their own lives and influence and change the lives of others – their peers, family and community.

Increase Pro-social Bonding – Provide your child with positive activities to do together that give them a sense of purpose and mastery in the situation.   Through mastery – a child develops self-efficacy by mastering their environment and learning that what he/she does makes a difference in the world.

Set Clear, Consistent Boundaries – Strike a balance between addressing concerns and getting back to a normal schedule. Boundaries are important to children because they give clear messages about what’s expected. Children need the safety of familiar rules and routines.

Set and Communicate High Expectations – Express your certainty that your child can cope with the situation and faith in their strength and inner resources.  When children have clear, consistent boundaries and high expectations, the are more likely they are to grow up healthy, because boundaries and expectations provide children with the support they need.


In a crisis, children have similar feelings to adults. They often show their feelings in actions rather than words.

1–4 years: Thumb-sucking, bedwetting, fear of the dark, clinging to parents, nightmares, not sleeping or broken sleep, loss of bladder or bowel control, speech or feeding problems, fear of being left alone, irritable, fretful

5–10 years: Aggression, confusion, competing for attention, avoiding school, nightmares, poor concentration, tummy aches, headaches, fear of the dark, fear of being hurt or left alone

11–13 years: Changes in appetite, broken sleep, antisocial behavior, school problems, anxiety, aches and pains, skin problems, fear of losing friends and family, acting as if it hasn’t happened.

14–18 years: Physical problems (rashes, bowel problems, asthma attacks, headaches), changes in appetite and sleep, lack of interest in things they usually enjoy, lack of energy, antisocial behavior, poor concentration, guilt. Some of these are part of the ups and downs of this age too.

Here are some helpful books to ready to children








A Terrible Thing Happened – A story for children who have witnessed violence or trauma

When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death

 Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss


If you would like Dr. Kay Trotter to come talk to your group you can contact her at: or 214-499-0396.

Dr Trotter also post regularly in her FaceBook fan page

Read More

How Parents Can Help Children Through Traumatic Events

By Rise VanFleet Guest Blogger. Rise VanFleet, PhD, RPT-S, CDBC
Child/Family Psychologist
Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor
Certified Dog Behavior Consultant
In practice for nearly 40 years, with specialties in traumatic events, chronic medical illness, strenghening parent-child relationships (esp. Filial Therapy), and Animal Assisted Play Therapy. Author of dozens of books, manuals, chapters, and articles on play therapy, Filial Therapy, AAPT, and canine behavior.

Too often our world is shaken by traumatic events such as natural disasters (e.g., tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods), war, school and community violence, acts of terrorism, accidents, housefires, life-threatening illness, separations, loss of a pet, kidnappings, and so on. Such events can leave all of us feeling helpless, and children may be particularly reactive to events that make them feel unsafe. Children who are directly exposed to such events can become traumatized, and the emotional impact of trauma can last a very long time if it goes unnoticed. Some children are exposed to trauma indirectly through sensationalized or repetitive newscasts or by hearing and seeing others‘ emotional reactions, and there’s evidence that children can be traumatized by this indirect contact with trauma as well. It’s important that parents have information about trauma, its impact on children, and how to help their children understand and cope with these events.

When something traumatic occurs, it’s important to give children an honest but simple explanation of what happened. They are bound to hear about it through television, schoolmates, or overheard adult conversations, so it’s best if their parents or primary caregivers play an active role in helping them understand the event. It’s also important to reassure children that you, their parents, will do everything you can to keep them safe. Some children blame themselves when bad things happen, so parents need to tell them firmly that it’s not their fault.

Caregivers should limit children’s exposure to newscasts about traumatic events. Broadcasts are geared toward adults, and children may not have the reasoning abilities or coping mechanisms to deal with repeated views of people crying, buildings on fire, and so on. Although children’s programs often portray violence, the emotional tone of the news conveys its “reality” and children and adolescents can become extremely frightened, whether or not they show it. You need not restrict their exposure entirely, but screen carefully what they do see!

Children who are roughly 3 to 12 years of age, given the opportunity, will often play out scenes from a traumatic event. Sometimes older children will, too. For example, following a car accident, parents might see their children playing out car crashes and rescues with their toys. When parents see this, they might worry that it’s damaging somehow for the child to play out the traumatic situation. Actually, it’s often just the opposite: it can help the child cope better. Just as we adults need to talk with others after experiencing something frightening, sad, or devastating, children need to play through their feelings and reactions to the trauma. It can be very beneficial if parents allow their children to play this way while showing acceptance of the child’s feelings. To stop such play can cut off the child’s primary means of coping. Of course, children should be distracted to some other activity if they are playing in ways that are actually dangerous to themselves or others, or if the child is becoming obviously upset by the play. If a child constantly plays out the traumatic event and seems unable to think about anything else, then limits should be set on the amount of time spent playing out the traumatic events. (If children’s play appears to be upsetting the child further or if they seem “obsessed” with their trauma play, parents should consider a consult with a mental health professional, as these behaviors might signal that the child is already traumatized. If children’s play appears robotic and the child seems “not there” while playing, a consult is warranted as well.)

It’s important to permit children to talk about their reactions to a traumatic event when they want to. Although such conversations can be difficult, especially if we’re experiencing our own reactions to the trauma, they do help all of us in the long run. One of the worst things we can do is say to our children, “Don’t play that way.” or “Don’t talk about it–it’s over–let’s get on with things.” Denial of the child’s reactions can lead to larger problems later. While it’s important to let children express themselves, including their feelings of anger, sadness, or helplessness, it’s also important to help them focus on the positive aspects of trauma situations.   In the wake of many disasters, there are many amazing, touching stories of selfless acts, heroic deeds, and the very best of human caring coming from the most horrible of conditions.  Although we see some of the worst of humanity after traumatic events, we also see vastly more of the very best.  It’s important for our children to hear about them because it adds to children‘s sense of security, connections to other people, and hope for the future.

The natural tendency of children to play out the things that are happening around them is their way of trying to understand. Because they are PLAYING, it feels safer to them, and this is very important. Too much TALKING about scary events can actually scare children more. Some talking is important to give children some basic information and to answer their questions, but it is through their play that children, especially those under 12, have a real opportunity to understand what is going on. Throughout the world, children in war zones are seen “playing war.” Children play doctor or medical scenes when they or someone in their family has been ill or hospitalized. Aid workers noticed that children directly affected by the Oklahoma City Bombing were playing with small plastic dogs sniffing around in piles of blocks, much as real dogs were used to find survivors in the actual rubble. After September 11, children throughout the world were reported to be playing scenes of planes hitting buildings, firefighters and rescue, buildings crashing down, and even funeral themes. A boy in the U.K. played scenes of police officers arresting “bad guys” after the terrorist bombing of the London Underground. A girl from New Orleans who had been moved to a shelter after Hurricane Katrina involved several other children in play where she was the “Mama Alligator” who was trying to save her babies (the other children) from the “Cane” (hurricane).

Long after a traumatic event has occurred, parents should remain alert to any signs of trauma in their children. When children are traumatized, the effects may occur much later than expected. Sometimes traumatized children look quite “normal” on the surface after the event, and then experience post-traumatic symptoms weeks, months, or even years later. It’s fine for parents to ask their children what they’re thinking and feeling about the event from time to time, and then really listen to what they say. On the other hand, it’s best not to “bombard” children with questions about how they’re feeling or to hold lengthy discussions with them, as this might actually raise the children’s anxiety levels. It’s good for parents to share their own feelings of fear, sadness, anger about an event because it helps children see that these reactions are normal and can provide good coping models. (A caution, though: be sure that you share your feelings simply and don’t elaborate to a point that could frighten the child further. Always reassure them that you’ll keep them safe.)

One of the most beneficial things for children after a traumatic event is for their day-to-day environment to return to “normal” as quickly as possible. Getting back to some sort of daily “routine” can help kids feel safer and keep the traumatic event from becoming the only focus of their lives. This can be challenging following some disasters, but working toward as normal an environment as possible under the circumstances can help. Parents can help children find a balance between playing/talking about the event and doing daily tasks and other types of activities.

When trauma has been caused by humans, as in terrorism, it is important for children and adults alike to remember that we gain strength from our human connections and that most people are good. Broad, angry statements about other ethnic groups can add to children’s sense of insecurity and promote prejudice and uninformed backlash effects. People throughout the world have struggled for a long time with our “differences,” and that struggle continues. Acts of terror are intended to divide us, and we can resist this and help our children feel much safer by teaching them that these bad deeds are the work of individuals (or small groups of individuals) and not of any broad ethnic, racial, religious, or other group.

Many children are quite resilient when dealing with traumatic events, but it’s good for parents to know what to look for when their child might be struggling. Here are some signs that your child might be experiencing post-traumatic problems:

  • anxious, “edgy”, nervous, agitated
  • difficulty concentrating
  • refuses to go to school; difficulty with schoolwork
  • becomes angry quickly
  • aggressive, either verbally or physically
  • nightmares, or repetitive nightmares
  • won’t sleep in his/her own bed; sleeps on floor or wants to sleep with parents
  • easily startled by noises or situations similar to the traumatic event
  • reverts to “younger-age” behaviors like bedwetting, nail biting, thumbsucking
  • won’t talk about what happened
  • talks excessively about what happened
  • becomes very dependent–clings to parents or other caretakers; fears separations
  • problems with friendships and siblings–seems aloof or argues
  • seems “different” than he/she did before; personality seems a bit different

Although these signs might be related to other things, if the signs persist, are intense, are different following the trauma, or if several occur for your child, it could be a sign of a traumatic reaction. If you or your children experience continuing distress that interferes with your day-to-day work, school, and family life, you might consider consulting with a therapist.  The sooner a post-traumatic reaction is determined and treated, the better the outcome is likely to be for the child (or adults, too). A qualified mental health professional can help the child and the parents.

Play therapy can be very effective with traumatized children. The play gives them some “distance” from which to explore and deal with their feelings. Even teens and adults can benefit from treatments which involve play and art or other expressive interventions. Words can fail us when we experience intensely frightening events, and other means of expressing ourselves become necessary. Sometimes family play interventions can be very helpful. If you have questions or concerns about your child, contact a local mental health professional. Make sure that he or she has experience with trauma, and having a background in play therapy can be a big plus.

For information on finding play therapists who specialize in children please visit The Association for Play Therapy director at

Or contact your local and state psychological, social work, mental health counseling, crisis, medical, or school counseling associations or professionals can make referrals to adult therapists.

Please visit Rise VanFleet visit her web site “Family Enrichment & Play Therapy Center” for more great parenting articles and great resources.

Read More

Large-scale Natural Disasters are Scary for Children

Guest Author – Caelan K. Kuban, LMSW is the Program Director for The National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children and Starr Training Institute. Caelan Kuban can be reached at

Large-scale natural disasters, like the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, are scary for children. There is no doubt that in the past week children have been exposed to powerful media images of the scene. Surely many of the children you work with have either asked you or their parents questions about what happened. Many children also are fearful about whether or not something like the disaster in Japan could happen where they live.

Encourage parents and teachers to limit a child’s media exposure and to set aside time to answer questions and talk to children about the tragedy in Japan. It can be traumatizing to see graphic images over and over again. While adults often need to know what is going on as a way to calm their own anxieties, in doing so they overexpose children. Adults should wait to turn on CNN until their children are in bed. Most important is to reassure a child, focusing on their safety.

Younger children need to hear that the buildings in our country are safe and that mom, dad, grandpa, grandma, etc. love him and are here to keep him safe. Parents should spend extra time snuggling on the couch, reading books, or playing a game with children who are feeling scared. Sensory comforts such as these will be more helpful than anything we might say. However, be open to questions but don’t provide too much information that could become scary or overwhelming.

Older children may be curious about how and why natural disasters happen and if they ask, it is appropriate to explain things in more detail. If children express worries about the children in Japan, explain that there are many adults from around the world that are helping them.

While we can’t explain why random events happen and certainly can’t predict or control them, we can use them as an opportunity for teachable lessons like empathy, generosity and humanity.

TLC is pleased to provide the Japanese translation and colorful illustrations of our Brave Bart storybook to Tokyo Center for Play Therapy in Japan for distribution to professionals working with children in the aftermath of the disaster.

The National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children on the WEB

Caelan Kuban can be reached at:

Read More