The Traumatic Stress Institute fosters the transformation of organizations and service systems to trauma-informed care (TIC) through the delivery of whole-system consultation, professional training, coaching, and research.

TIC National Learning Collaborative for IDD Organizations Hits its Halfway Point

March 9, 2022 / by Steve Brown, PsyD

We have reached the halfway point of an innovative TIC initiative in the intellectual and developmental disability (IDD) sector.  So, it seemed like a good time to share out some of our achievements, challenges, and lessons learned so far.

We at the Traumatic Stress Institute (TSI) launched this first-of-its-kind TIC Learning Collaborative for IDD organizations to support them transform the very fabric of their organizations to being truly trauma-informed. We selected four organizations from across the US to work together as peers to learn, problem solve, and hold each other accountable while each implemented TSI’s Whole Systems-Change Model to Trauma-Informed Care. John Keesler, Ph.D. from Indiana University is conducting a formal quantitative and qualitative study on the project to inform future TIC work in the IDD sector. This Prospectus details the project.

In May 2021, the 18-month journey began. So, we are 9 months in.  

From day one, we were delighted, and a little surprised, by the eagerness and enthusiasm organizational leaders brought to their involvement. Knowing that TIC has been slow to get traction in the IDD field, we expected it to be harder to get buy in. Leader enthusiasm was strong despite the entire initiative being rolled out during the COVID pandemic.

During the initial leadership meeting, leaders stressed that this was long overdue in the IDD sector, used the word “groundbreaking,” and whole-heartedly welcomed the opportunity to be trailblazers. Not only did they feel the people they support would greatly benefit, but they believed that being trauma-informed would elevate their profile as an organization in their community. Those that had already done some work around TIC felt that participation would serve to embed TIC more firmly into their organizational DNA. Being organizations that often took on the hardest cases, they needed the training and expertise to be truly healing settings for people they supported.

In month two, after each organization formed a formal TIC Task Force to guide the initiative, organizations created ways to “prime the pump” and build momentum for the initiative. One organization sent a Task Force member to all team meetings to introduce the initiative. Another put TIC on the agenda for every one of their own team meetings.  A third showed the Nadine Burke Harris TED talk in their programs and led discussions.

In month four, all organizations sent selected staff to the Risking Connection IDD foundational trauma training. Risking Connection, a training model used for over 20 years to train professionals working with people suffering trauma, will become a mandated training for all staff at the organizations. Participants noted that, different from the trauma trainings they had attended in the past, this was specifically tailored to IDD professionals. Evaluations highlighted the trainings focus on staff compassion fatigue and what organizations can do to foster staff self-care. After the training, one excited leader wrote us saying, “The feedback has been amazing. People are so excited and ready to start rolling this training out to all staff. It truly was on the best trainings I have ever been to.”

Now, nine months in, all organizations have their own internal Risking Connection Trainers and Champions that completed a Train-the-Trainer training. They are finalizing their written implementation plans and starting to roll out Risking Connection training to all staff. Monthly Learning Collaborative meetings help to monitor progress, share ideas about what’s working and not working, and keep the focus on their goals.

Here’s some take-aways that we have learned so far:

  • It’s a broken record in the TIC field, but we’ll say it again: Full leadership commitment and buy-in is essential to success.
  • Having one person whose job it is to lead a TIC initiative is critical. If it there is not a person convening, organizing, and pushing the effort, it will flounder.
  • Be intentional about how to involve direct support professionals (DSPs) into the effort. Our organizations struggle to get DSPs invested and involved. We preach that DSP’s moment-to-moment interactions with people are the most critical healing agent – they build trust and safety in relationships and can re-sculpt brain circuitry.
  • Use a trauma-informed lens to revise behavioral support plans and functional behavior assessments.

If you would like more information about the Traumatic Stress Institute’s TIC work in the IDD sector, click here.

Tags: Whole-System Change, IDD Organizations

Steve Brown, PsyD

Written by Steve Brown, PsyD

Steve Brown, Psy.D., is the Director of the Traumatic Stress Institute of Klingberg Family Centers. A clinical psychologist, he is a primary architect of TSI’s internationally-recognized whole-system change process to trauma-informed care. He is a co-creator, with Dr. Courtney Baker, of the Attitudes Related to Trauma-Informed Care (ARTIC) Scale, one of the first psychometric measures of TIC. He trains professionals nationally on psychological trauma and trauma-informed care. In addition to being a psychologist, he is a long time sexuality educator/trainer and author of Streetwise to Sex-Wise: Sexuality Education for High Risk Youth, a sexuality education curricula used internationally by agencies and schools serving high-risk youth.