UW–Madison’s Wright speaks with NY Times about how school can help children cope with disaster

The New York Times utilized the expertise of UW–Madison’s Travis Wright for an article looking at how schools can help children cope with the aftermath of devastating wildfires and other disasters.

Wright is an associate professor with the School of Education’s Department of Counseling Psychology and is a nationally recognized expert on resilience and emotionally responsive teaching, especially for children developing in the midst of adversity.


Wright explained to the newspaper that schools can step in and provide support when parents are traumatized, and that familiar adults at school can help provide a “buffering effect” against trauma.

“Being able to stay connected to their teachers and each other in the midst of this crisis will actually be really positive for them,” Wright said of students in the Phoenix-Talent School District in Oregon, where an estimated 40 percent of students lost their homes in a wildfire recently, including 80 percent of students at one elementary school.

Wright explained that the structure of school can help children “make sense of a world that feels random and frightening.” He noted that for a young child, a wildfire “seems like it comes out of nowhere.”

A wildfire not only disrupts their sense of cause and effect, he said, but interferes with their ability to comprehend other patterns in everyday life, from relationships to math. He said that instructors can help young children find a sense of control by gently enforcing routines and rules.

“That not only helps them get back on track with their learning, but it also helps them feel safer and more regulated,” he said.

Learn more by reading the full article at nytimes.com, here.