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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL poor discipline is determined more by the state of mind of the disciplin- ing adult than by the child’s action or the “cause” itself, and is naturally illogical to the child (Szalavitz and Perry 2010). If the adult’s reactions are not consistent, then a child has few opportunities to identify the connec- tions between events and consequences. Educators generally assume all children understand cause and effect. But if understanding was never established, the student may have great difficulty learning science and math skills. Traumatic stress affects stu- dents’ sense of time and can interfere with their ability to understand sequencing and the meaning of numbers. Students who live with trau- matic stress may require repeated opportunities to internalize and trust what their teacher is inferring and what the classroom rules represent or mean so they can begin to trust their teacher and the consistency of their environment. Physical Reactions Children who have experienced trauma often have heightened startle responses and fear of situations that remind them of previous scary events. They may have intrusive and repeated thoughts and images (Perry 2004). They often struggle with self-regulation and empathy and are moody. They may be highly sensitive to issues of fairness and easily upset by separations and changes in routines. Traumatic stress can also cause children to complain about nightmares and to have trouble sleep- ing. Sensitive teachers can learn to trust their instincts for the appropri- ateness of a child’s developmental processes and behaviors. While each of these behaviors alone does not necessarily mean that a child is suffering from traumatic stress, the trauma-informed educator will be aware of behaviors that should prompt further investigation into the reason for those behaviors. In the story that follows, hearing the sounds again of a fearful experience was a powerful trigger for a traumatic stress reaction that at first glance appeared to be misbehavior. The sounds of a previous frightening event can place a child back in that moment, and the fear is relived. A kindergarten student in an urban school was comfortably following directions on a numbers lesson when a fire truck and police cars with sirens blaring drove past his first-floor classroom window. The child jumped up, put his hands over his 22 Chapter Two COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL