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Trauma Informed Care

Trauma is a set of normal human responses to stressful and threatening experiences. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 61% of men and 51% of women — over half the population — are exposed to at least one lifetime traumatic event, and people with disabilities are more likely to experience trauma more than people without disabilities.

Research tells us:

  • People with disabilities are more than four times as likely to be victims of crime as people without disabilities. (Sobsey, 1996)
  • Children with disabilities are 1.8 times more likely to be neglected, 1.6 times more likely to be physically abused, and 2.2 times more likely to be sexually abused than are children without disabilities. (Sullivan & Cork, 1998)
  • Poverty itself may be a traumatic experience, as people in poverty are more likely to experience housing instability, food insecurity, lack of access to needed health care, and greater exposure to violence and crime. In 2018, 26% of people with disabilities were living below the poverty line (Disability Statistics).
  • Victims typically have difficulty accessing appropriate services (Sobsey & Doe, 1991).

What Does Trauma Look Like?

People who have experienced repeated, chronic, or multiple traumas are more likely to experience substance abuse, mental illness, and health problems. They may develop defensive or aggressive behaviors, and often have difficulty building healthy relationships with others because they’re concerned with surviving.

For people with disabilities, the experience of coping with trauma and its aftermath may be more complex due to difficulties with communication and lack of access to necessary supports. Here is how a person who is coping with trauma may react when receiving services:


Traumatic Response

Interpersonal conflicts, appears agitated

Irritability, restlessness, outbursts of anger or rage

Difficulty keeping up in job training programs

Difficulty keeping up in job training programs

Difficulty “getting motivated” for job training or job search

Depression and diminished interest in everyday activities

Triggered when dealing with authorities. Will not accept help from others.

Increased need for control



Using a Trauma-Informed Approach Can Make the Difference

Using a trauma-informed approach when working with people who have experienced trauma can make the difference in developing positive relationships and supporting them to reach their employment and life goals.  A trauma-informed approach changes the focus from “What is wrong with you?” to “What has happened to you?

Use these strategies to incorporate trauma-informed care into your practice:



Following are some tools and resources to learn even more about this topic.

Featured Resources

Project E3

Trauma Informed Training Collection

To achieve a trauma-informed service environment, service providers in all roles – from direct service, to leaders, to support staff – need to be consistent in their interactions with consumers and each other. View the Trauma Informed Care Training Collection

Agency Resources

The field of Trauma Informed Care is expanding and becoming more prominent across many different human service areas. Check out these resources to learn more and see how other agencies are incorporating trauma-informed care into service delivery.