Trauma Informed Global Resilience (TIGR) seminar series


Beginning in the spring of 2021, CIE in collaboration with the Educator Preparation Office of the College of Education began a series of virtual seminars focusing on trauma exposure and recovery in crisis and conflict education settings. The seminars seek to bear witness to children and families in diverse contexts of trauma exposure and to inform education and intervention for healing and recovery. The series is organized and moderated by Dr. Ian Barron, the CIE Director.



War in Ukraine: “We are on the side of children.”  Serhil Lukashov, the National Director of SOS Children’s Villages in Ukraine spoke at the hybrid seminar in April, 2022 directly from Kyiv in the midst of the war.  He emphasized that protecting children and their caregivers is a matter of the utmost urgency for all the social protection agencies during the nationwide evacuation efforts.


During the seminar, Mr. Lukashov spoke about international migration and internal displacement. At the time of the seminar more than 4 million children and parents had left the country to seek refuge in other countries. More than 6.5 million children and adults were displaced internally while 400,000 orphaned children remained in occupied territories and battle zones.


He also reported some preliminary estimates on deaths and injuries, indicating that the real totals were likely much higher.


The war has also devastated the country’s infrastructure. Estimates indicate that almost 1,000 schools were either damaged or destroyed, and more than 1,000 medical facilities were destroyed or damaged by the ongoing attacks.


The presentation emphasized the challenges of tracking internationally displaced children and enormous effort that has been undertaken by the embassies and consulates of Ukraine in the efforts to ensure Ukrainian refugees' wellbeing abroad. In closing, Mr. Lukashov expressed the hope that peace will be restored allowing the children and families to return home to lead prosperous and peaceful lives in their motherland.


Mr. Lukashov also shared some examples of the heroic actions of his own team and their efforts to provide ongoing support to children and families while operating in extremely hazardous conditions including hiding from explosions in shelters, while simultaneously coping with a serious shortage of staff.


The hybrid seminar was attended in person and online by more than 50 people from both Europe and America and involved practitioners as well as academics.


During the Q&A session, a number of attendees inquired about the availability of mental health assistance and training for the service providers. While expressing the importance of such valuable capacity-building tools, the director emphasized that the country was operating in a survival mode and expressed the intention to resume such efforts when the lethal crisis is over.


Another notable question from the audience raised the issue of child-soldiers. There was an inquiry about whether children are used to fight on battlefields. The Director emphasized that he was not aware of any instance where minors were involved in the fighting.


The Center of International Education expressed their gratitude and support to Director Lukashov and his heroic team for their time and dedication.



How young can a child develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? In December 2021, Dr. Miri Keren, Professor Emeritus at the Tel Aviv University Sackler Medical School, presented her work on PTSD in infants and young children. Dr. Keren, now retired, was the Head of the Infant Psychiatry course for more than 20 years. As President of the World Association of Infant Mental Health (2012-2016), she has been actively working and advocating for a declaration of Infant’s Rights.


Dr. Keren is an Honorary President of the Israeli WAIMH Affiliate and a Chairperson of the World Psychiatric Association Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Section. She is also a recipient of the Leibovici WAIMH Award.


During the TIGR Seminar, Dr. Keren presented empirical data demonstrating post-traumatic reactions in children ages 0 to 3 and 4 to 5. She shared diagnostic classifications of PTSD-related events that can lead to trauma among infants and its correlation with parental mental health and psychiatric diagnoses.  Specifically, she pointed out the significance of emotional maltreatment and described the characteristics of abusive parents.


Dr. Keren discussed several important protective factors such as positive parental relationships and the importance of social and community support. When presenting the risk factors for the infant to develop PTSD, she introduced the concept of “toxic stress” that follows from the exposure to traumatic experiences of various types, which she illustrated with several clinical vignettes.



In addition, she provided a comprehensive chart on PTSD from Infancy to Adulthood as well as emphasized the coherent approach of dyadic psychotherapy. The speaker concluded the session by sharing valuable insights about the importance of detecting and treating PTSD early in infancy to avoid the later development of emotional and behavioral disorders.


At the end of the session, participants - UMass scholars, and New England area clinical practitioners - had a chance to ask questions and discuss areas of interest with Dr. Keren.



Exploring a Global Abuse Prevention Mindset.  The inaugural TIGR seminar on April 2, 2021 was led by Dr. Laurie Matthew, OBE who is the founder of 18u a non-profit organization providing confidential services for sexually abused young people. She has 25 years’ experience of developing and delivering abuse prevention programs in schools and communities.


Her presentation discussed The Violence is Preventable’ program that makes use of provocative statements, such as ‘it’s ok to hit a woman’ to enable children to share and explore their views on what is and what is not abuse.  Dr Matthew emphasized the importance of communicative behaviors in delivering abuse prevention programs involving open body language, warm tones, and validating and affirming verbal response for children.


She said “Classes need to be ‘energized’ with movement, more akin to the playground context to enable children to spontaneously share with each other, and the class.” Teachers need to be open to receiving disclosures during the lessons, most of which are one-liners such as “that happened to my mum and it’s not ok” that open the door for support for children.




Laurie’s also research raises serious questions about the impact of mandatory reporting, indicating that what survivors want is confidentiality, choice, and control over who to tell, what to share, and the timing of what action is taken. “Survivors tell their stories over time, the initial disclosure is just the tip of the iceberg.”



Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity & Empathy (PACE).  Dr. Susan Darker-Smith led a workshop for the second TIGR event on April 16, 2021.  Dr. Darker-Smith is a European Accredited EMDR Child & Adolescent Trainer and Founding Trustee for the Global Child-EMDR Alliance. She also sits on the international Council of Scholars established to develop EMDR research and Practice.  She has over 20 years’ experience working with complex child trauma presentations.


Dr Darker-Smith emphasized that “the right to be heard is a universal right regardless of culture, religion, race, sexual orientation or identity. Too often children report feeling unseen, unheard, devalued, and unwanted which leads to long-term significant mental health implications into adulthood.” Trauma in early childhood can lead to disrupted attachment, cognitive delays and impaired emotional regulation.


She emphasized that “any experience that disturbs the development of secure attachment at a time of heightened dependence will lead to impaired development of neural pathways that sub serve emotional behaviors, which in turn lead to emotional dysregulation throughout the course of life. Early trauma leads to internalizing behaviors such as withdrawal, depression and self-blame.”


In this presentation, the speaker explained how the use of PACE, pioneered by Dr. Daniel Hughes, builds attachments and resilience in students though open and transparent communication.


  • Playfulness is about creating an atmosphere of lightness when you communicate with a child (lightness of voice like story telling).

  • Acceptance is the process of actively communicating unconditionally, that we accept a child’s wishes, feelings, thought, and distress etc. that are underneath the observed behavior.

  • Curiosity is about wondering without judgement about the meaning of the child’s behavior.

  • Empathy involves the adult showing that they are concerned for child’s inner experience and feelings, including through the hard times.



Mental Health During Ongoing Violent Confrontation and COVID-19. Dr Ghassan Abdallah, Director of the Center for Applied Research in Education (CARE) in Ramallah, highlighted the cumulative impact of COVID-19 within the context of violent military occupation, with specific reference to Palestine. He emphasized how COVID-19 has triggered and exacerbated Palestinian’s feelings of isolation, fear, hopelessness, and loss, as well as anger towards the inequity of vaccine distribution within the region. Such experiences add to wide ranging trauma exposure for children and adolescents in Palestine including physical abuse, neglect, domestic violence, child sexual abuse, and bereavement.


Dr Abdallah argued that delivering education and wellbeing projects in contexts of pervasive adversity can be significantly undermined by deep-rooted cultural beliefs that “Satan is responsible for mental health problems and behavior disorders.” In short, children deserve their misfortune. Similarly, where healing occurs this is often conceptualized at a level of “magical thinking.”


In international wellbeing projects, Dr Abdallah emphasized that “it is imperative to keep in mind the differences in cultural understandings and communication that can lead to a confusion of understanding and intention. Cultural competence, however, may not be sufficient. We also need to break down the stereotyping, the deep negative attitudes, and the distrust in mental health services and providers.


The Center in Ramallah, has adopted a communicative approach that embeds wellbeing education programs ‘within’ the mindset and constructs of the local population.  Dr. Abdallah described their programs as “Building on the growthful and compassionate scriptural texts, we frame program goals and strategies as Allah’s will. In this way, we shape not only children’s and parent’s understanding of wellbeing but create an openness to new ideas that are based on evidence and are inclusive of the ‘other.’



Addressing Historical and Intergenerational Trauma of Indigenous Americans. Dr. Mishy Lesser, a CIE graduate, is a co-founder and the learning director of the Upstander Project. In her presentation, Dr. Lesser introduced issues of the relationship between settler colonialism and genocide of Indigenous peoples in the U.S. and its links to historical and intergenerational trauma.  She also discussed trauma-informed strategies and community pathways to healing for children and care-givers.


Two short films by the Upstander Project were screened during the workshop. "First Light" is a documentary about forced displacement of Native American Wabanaki children to boarding schools and foster families beginning in the 1800s and continuing into the 1950’s by the Indian Child Welfare Act. Dr. Lesser emphasized that even today Native American families are losing their children as a result of discriminatory practices that disconnect children from the Indigenous cultures, knowledge and communities.


The second documentary shared the story of Georgina, an Indigenous woman who was forcibly removed at the age of two from her home within the Passamaquoddy community in Maine by child protective services.  


"Native children grow up knowing the history of genocide while non-Native children do not". Dr. Lesser said that educators should learn settler history to better understand the historical context for trauma that Indigenous children have experienced throughout generations. Moreover, she pointed out that because many educators lack this awareness, "genocide against Indigenous people in the United States is happening now".


Dr. Lesser ended the session by posing the question: “What would happen if the focus is on healing and not trauma?”


Future Seminars. For information on future seminars and workshops in this series see the CIE/UMass Facebook page. [7-21]