Lost in the Host: The Struggle of a Syrian Refugee Family in Urban Schools with a Child Suffering from Undiagnosed PTSD Symptoms
Keywords:post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Refugees, Trauma, Trauma-informed schools
The Syrian refugee crisis has put schools worldwide under pressure to meet the unique needs of refugee children, many of whom suffer from undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Using thematic analysis on open-ended interview data, the present case study examined the experience of a Syrian refugee family who recently arrived in the United States and their experiences at two different school districts. An analysis of the findings indicates the need for trauma-informed schools that provide tailored interventions and counseling to help refugee students overcome their traumatic experiences. This study also demonstrates a need for a revision to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act’s (IDEA) definition of an emotional disturbance to specifically include students who have experienced trauma. The four emerging themes that support these recommendations were positions that aggravate PTSD symptoms, schools’ negligence in accommodating for a new culture, an ineffective academic approach (sink or swim), and social isolation due to lack of acceptance. While this study focused on a Syrian refugee mother and her children, their experiences may advise a planned path for this growing population.