The aftermath of Hurricane Iniki: Development of a school-based intervention

Eileen Creedon-Savage (1997)

Four years following Hurricane Iniki a large number of children who were preschool age at the time of the hurricane, continue to present with significant, and in some cases, severe behavior difficulties. Research on childhood trauma suggests that multiple factors influence the impact of trauma on children. This population of children appears to have been particularly vulnerable to the effects of trauma due to their developmental level at the time of the incident, their close proximity to the trauma, and the ongoing interpersonal and physical difficulties which resulted from the trauma. This project works from the premise that the overwhelming psychological trauma of the hurricane, as well as related secondary trauma, resulted in: developmental regression; perceptual distortions; response disinhibition; disturbance in self-regulation; and a variety of symptoms which resemble Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This project involves the development of a school-based program designed to respond to these identified behavioral needs of a second grade population of children on the Hawaiian island of Kaua'i. Research suggests that ADHD-like symptoms are frequently found among children exposed to traumatic stressors. For purposes of this project, the diagnostic term ADHD is used to define a set of symptoms, not a particular syndrome, experienced by the children of Kaua'i following this traumatic event. The proposed educational program embeds empirically based, individual strategies for children with ADHD-like symptoms in an integrated, comprehensive intervention plan. Its purpose is to create an environment which will decrease problematic behaviors, strengthen adaptive behaviors, and enhance learning for all children. Multimodal in nature, the program combines the principles of behavior management, cognitive-behavioral strategies, and a systems approach. This program differs from other approaches in that it recommends programming for all children within a public school, regular education setting. The program is also unique because it combines teacher training, parent education and support, and a comprehensive curriculum for the children. The program is designed to facilitate children's ability to generalize and maintain acquired psychosocial skills over time, place, and people.