Behaviorally challenging kids can exhibit intense temper outbursts, oppositionality, and verbal and physical aggression. Behavioral difficulties like these strain family relationships and are the leading cause of teacher stress and burnout. Yet, traditional disciplinary strategies tend not to work with the youth to whom they are most applied and are often associated with significantly increasing risk for things like school dropout and juvenile justice involvement. At the same time, there has been renewed interest in the effects of chronic, overwhelming stress and trauma on children’s development, learning and behavior. Parents, educators and clinicians strive to provide a trauma-informed discipline. Yet, we often still struggle to understand the impact of trauma on brain development in a concrete and tangible way, and we all long for concrete strategies that operationalize what brain science tells us will be helpful to facilitate development arrested as a result of complex developmental trauma.
Dr. Stuart Ablon will provide an alternative conceptualization of the difficulties of these kids; namely, that their difficulties are a byproduct of lagging skills in the domains of flexibility/adaptability, frustration tolerance, and problem-solving. Based on this conceptualization, he will introduce an approach to transform discipline called Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS). CPS provides guideposts for adults to build helping relationships with children while fostering a relational process that develops flexibility, problem solving, and emotion regulation skills. The CPS model has helped adults teach these lagging cognitive skills while reducing the frequency and intensity of challenging behavior in diverse settings, including families, schools, group homes, and inpatient and juvenile detention facilities. In the course of this training, Dr. Ablon will make complicated neurodevelopmental concepts accessible and provide a practical evidence-based process for trauma-informed care that everyone at school and home can follow.
J.Stuart Ablon, Ph.D., is the Director of Think:Kids in the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is also Associate Professor and the Thomas G. Stemberg Endowed Chair in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Ablon received his doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of California at Berkeley and completed his training at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.