Follow-up Discussion: Adult Education and Resettled Refugees in the U.S.

Hello colleagues, The event focused on serving refugees with Katie Callahan Neginskiy was incredibly valuable. I want to thank Katie for sharing her expertise with all of us. Katie emphasized the importance of Trauma-Informed Care and shared many practical examples with us.

You are invited to share your experiences and to pose questions related to your work with refugees here in our community. Your voice is important!

Here are some of the key highlights from this LINCS event:

Official Definitions of Refugee

  • Refugees are people who have fled war, violence, conflict or persecution and have crossed an international border to find safety in another country.”-UNHCR
  • Someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.-1951 Refugee Convention

Trauma-Informed Care Examples

#1: Take time at the beginning of class to separate the students’ minds from what is happening in their personal lives and come together in the classroom in a gentle way.  

  • “(Teachers) could do an exercise that lowers the autonomic nervous system by asking students to reflect on and write down three words that are on their mind right now.  Have the students rewrite those words with their non-dominant hand, a difficult and perhaps comedic effort. 
  • These steps would help reset the brain; individuals would move into a place where they can absorb material, engage with others and learn.”

#2: New environments and new activities can be triggering, so exercises in mindfulness can be helpful to avoid hyperarousal. 

  • Mindfulness exercises can be helpful before or after your regularly scheduled classroom activities, in order to center the students and bring them to the present. They can also be employed in the moment, if you notice a student or your class is becoming agitated. 

  • Try asking students to place their hands on their stomachs and take five deep breaths together. Have the students practice a stretching exercise. Bring attention to their senses and “have a student describe five things they see in the room, four things they feel with their skin, three things they can hear, two things they can smell, and one good thing about themselves. This is very helpful in terms of settling down and returning to the present moment after an emotional episode.”

#3: Students who have experienced trauma may have trouble remembering new material.  

  • Instructors can help train students to hold on to new information and recall information by allowing extra time to answer questions. 
  • For example, try a spaced retrieval task. “Read a story and immediately ask a comprehension question. Tell the class you’ll ask the same question later, and progressively space it out.”

#4: Students who have experienced trauma, may feel pressure to respond too quickly or not respond at all. Try activities that train their attention to operate at healthy levels. 

  • “Read a story with a target word (or a list of letters with a target letter). Every time the target is read, students complete some action (raising a hand, tapping the table, writing a number, etc.). As students show improved attention, this task can be made more difficult by asking comprehension questions from the story at the end. 
  • This adds an element of shifting attention between a specific stimuli and gist meaning, something that can be very difficult due to hyperarousal after trauma.”

Here's the link to the RESOURCES Katie shared during this event. Anyone who would like a copy of Katie's slides can contact here through email:

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP​​​​​​​