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Healing and Thriving: How Online School Supports Recovery from Trauma

February 28th, 2024
Student taking a moment to standing outside and drink coffee by himself

Sometimes, dropping out of school isn’t a choice. For some students, their present or past circumstances prevent them from physically attending school. For teens with personal challenges, it’s a fight to get to school, never mind trying to be successful. Students often drop out when attending school becomes too much of an uphill fight. 

At Grad Solutions, we’ve realized that the only way some teens and adults can begin to dream about returning to high school is to have strong supporters. They need people who can come alongside them and have experience working with students who are battling extraordinary challenges like trauma. 

Students who have experienced trauma, in particular, need a different kind of support. That’s because trauma is an event or environment that is psychologically overwhelming1. It often creates changes in the body, mind, and behavior. Recovery from trauma can take time, especially because some don’t realize they have experienced trauma. While everyone is different, generally, people who have experienced trauma need some support to move forward and live normally. 

Someone leaning against a rail with hands folded

Research has shown that students who feel safe and supported in their learning environment are more likely to perform better academically2. Students who are not preoccupied with fear or insecurity can devote their attention and energy to learning and mastering new concepts. Students who are struggling with the effects of trauma may experience difficulties concentrating, retaining information, and completing assignments. An online school program, like Grad Solutions, provides an ideal environment for those who need support to overcome those challenges. 

Learning in a familiar environment

For individuals who have experienced trauma, the physical environment of a traditional school setting may trigger feelings of anxiety, fear, or discomfort. Online school allows students to learn in a familiar and safe environment, such as their home, where they have greater control over their surroundings. This can contribute to a sense of safety and reduce potential triggers in a crowded or unfamiliar setting.

Some Arizona-based Grad Solutions students also find that their local HUB location is a comfortable and safe place to do schoolwork. The HUB provides free WIFI, equipment, food, clothing, tutoring, laundry services, and more. Caring HUB staff members have been trained to work in this area and are also present to help students with emotional support as they need it.

Flexibility and Control

Student attending online school at home in bed with their dog

Online school programs like Grad Solutions often provide flexibility in scheduling and pacing, allowing students to progress through their coursework at their own pace and on their own terms. This flexibility is especially beneficial for individuals recovering from trauma, as it allows them to manage their learning experience in a comfortable and empowering way. Having control over their learning environment and schedule can contribute to a sense of autonomy which is crucial for individuals rebuilding their sense of self after trauma.

Reduced Social Pressure 

In traditional school settings, students may feel pressure to socialize, participate in group activities, or interact with peers, which can be challenging for individuals in the early stages of trauma recovery. Online school offers a more individualized learning experience with fewer social pressures and distractions. This can be particularly helpful for students who struggle with social anxiety or who need time and space to focus on their emotional well-being as they work through the effects of trauma.

Access to Support Resources 

Some online schools offer access to various support resources, including counselors, mental health services, and academic support specialists. These resources can be invaluable for individuals overcoming trauma, providing them with the tools, guidance, and support they need to succeed academically and emotionally. 

Additionally, some schools offer opportunities for virtual support groups or peer networks, allowing students to connect with others who may be going through similar experiences. At Grad Solutions, many of the Mentors, Teachers, and Support Staff have specialized trauma-informed training to help students navigate beyond their past experiences and see a path forward to finishing high school. 

Individualized Attention

In online schooling, students often have more opportunities for one-on-one interaction with teachers and instructors. This personalized attention can be especially beneficial for individuals recovering from trauma, as it allows them to receive targeted support, feedback, and encouragement tailored to their unique needs and circumstances.

Social and Emotional Development

School is a place for academic learning and a critical environment for social and emotional development. Feeling safe and comfortable at school allows students to form positive relationships with peers and teachers, develop social skills, and build self-confidence. These interpersonal connections can serve as a source of support and resilience for students who have experienced trauma, helping them navigate challenges and cope with stressors.

Student on a virtual meeting with a mentor

It is crucial for someone who has experienced trauma to learn and engage in school in an environment where they feel safe and comfortable for several reasons. Being in an environment that feels safe and supportive can help mitigate the symptoms of trauma, such as anxiety, depression, and hypervigilance. When students feel secure in their surroundings, they can better focus on their studies and participate actively in learning.

The right online school can provide a supportive and empowering learning environment for individuals overcoming trauma, offering safety, flexibility, individualized attention, and access to resources that promote healing, growth, and academic success. 

Learning and engaging in a learning environment where one feels safe and comfortable is essential for those who have experienced trauma or extraordinary difficulties. By prioritizing well-being and trauma-informed practices, schools can create an inclusive and supportive environment that promotes healing, resilience, and academic success for all students.



2Journal of Adolescent Health

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