About the Florida Shooting, Empathy, and Not Being Able to Speak

I was reflecting on the 2/14/2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, and the massive impact this event has had, once again, on all of our communities: not just in collective grief, but in the outpouring of empathy for the victims.

A young man shooting people randomly at a school seems incomprehensible. Yet, how do we go about helping students and families to make sense of such traumatic events? The easiest solution is not to do anything; but is this an ethically tenable position to take?

In an interview with Jen Kirby (Vox), Gerry Griffith, a crisis counselor in Indiana, said, “What blows my mind is that everybody just expects these kids to go on. And it becomes a part of who they are for the rest of their lives.” This counselor kept stressing the importance of taking time to talk and listen to students in despair.

The question then becomes: How do we assist our students during the process of dealing with traumatic events—particularly those who have severe communication problems and use AAC (augmentative and alternative communication)? We can ensure that they have access to relevant vocabulary to express themselves; however, perhaps the more important part of this is—to be emotionally available to them, and to make them feel supported in a way that make them feel less lonely during this process.

Do you think we are sensitive enough and dedicate enough time to listen to/take time with our students after a traumatic life event?

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