Encompass Blog

Challenging Behaviors and Childhood Trauma

April 7, 2023  |  Behavioral Health  |  By Megan Walsh, MSW, LICSW

Community Collaboration Workshops With Dr. Mona Delahooke

Encompass believes that community partnership is a critical component in serving children and families. Thanks to a generous grant from the East Seattle Foundation, Encompass team members were joined by representatives from Empower Youth Network, Snoqualmie Valley School District, and Snoqualmie Police Department in a two-part training provided by Mona Delahooke, Ph.D. Dr. Delahooke is a licensed clinical psychologist with more than 30 years of experience caring for children and families and has dedicated her career to promoting compassionate, relationship-based neurodevelopmental interventions for children with developmental, behavioral, emotional, and learning differences.

The hope with this collaboration is that Snoqualmie Valley will respond to the needs of our children in more helpful, healing ways and further a community where all children can thrive.

The workshops covered valuable information on the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and the negative outcomes of restraints, suspensions, and expulsions on the long-term development of children. Participants were given the opportunity to explore the importance of looking beneath a behavior to see the needs the child is trying to communicate and start to understand the importance of nervous system regulation. Schools nationwide are seeing increased levels of anxiety, referrals for behavioral issues, and attendance challenges. The workshops challenged us to view these issues through the lenses of trauma, culture, and nervous system development. The hope is that this shift in focus will facilitate the creation and implementation of strategies rooted in compassion, playfulness, relational safety, and flexibility.

Other key takeaways included:

  • Play heals trauma and the best type of play is child-led play with a parent who is attuned and enthusiastic about the interaction. The Encompass team will spend some time in the coming weeks exploring how we can coach and support that type of play for the kids we serve.
  • When a child struggles with bodily or emotional regulation, the best thing we can do is to offer rhythmic, repetitive, and relational activities like rolling a ball back and forth or drumming together. This kind of activity builds the neuronal networks that facilitate the development of regulation.
  • Delahooke reminds us that every child is unique, and we need to understand that neurodiversity can be the result of experiences or wiring.

A quote that resonated with many of us was, “In the US, our training is largely behavioral. This can lead to trauma and self-hatred for kids who are neurodivergent due to experiences or brain/nervous system wiring.”   According to Delahooke, our services meet kids’ needs when they look at behaviors as signals for a need instead of the target of interventions.

In addition to the valuable learnings from the workshops, each participant received a copy of Delahooke’s award-winning book, Beyond Behaviors: Using Brain Science and Compassion to Understand Solve Children’s Behavioral Challenges. Several copies of Brain-Body Parenting: How to Stop Managing Behaviors and Start Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids were also made available.

As a therapist and a parent, I really connect with Dr. Delahooke’s message that we must look beyond behaviors that can feel frustrating or annoying. Instead, be curious about what the child is trying to help us understand about how they are feeling. It is not easy, and it isn’t what I learned in school, but I am confident that it is a much more effective, compassionate approach to dealing, not just with children, but with other humans in general.


Dr. Delahooke will be a guest on the Encompass Parent Talks podcast in May 2023 and we would love to ask her a few great questions from our community. What would you like to ask the expert? Drop an email to marketing@encompassnw.org.

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