Dynamics of Abuse and Trauma: Treatment for Children with Special Needs

This is a FREE training event. 

Start: May 24, 2018 @ 9:00 am

End: May 24, 2018 @ 4:00 pm

Location: Sacramento, CA

If no event address is listed, it will be provided in the confirmation materials

Register Online Today

Course Overview

This training will start by examining the abuse dynamics unique to children with special needs.  These dynamics will include adult-child relationship expectations, access to prevention education, tolerance for exploitation, and theory of mind skills. 

We will then shift to exploring how traumatic experiences vary between neurotypical children and those with developmental differences.  These trauma responses will be examined as part of the physiological, sensory, emotional, and cognitive systems of the child.  The presentation will then evaluate interventions for supporting these children within the therapeutic relationship and how to modify therapy settings to achieve regulation for children with a variety of sensory needs.  Finally, we will examine case studies to bring together how to evaluate symptoms, educate families, and therapeutically support children within this special population.  


Amber McDonald, LCSW is a doctoral candidate at the University of Denver and currently finishing up her dissertation, Fact vs. Fiction: Uncovering the experiences of homeless/street youths’ involvement in survival sex.  She has conducted research in the areas of youth involvement in trading/selling sex, vicarious trauma, and childhood sexual abuse.  Amber has an extensive practice background in forensic social work and child welfare.  Specifically, Amber has expertise in forensic interviewing, expert testimony in both criminal and civil cases, trauma interventions/assessments (children and families), coordination and implementation of trauma-informed care initiatives, and program development. She also provides child sex trafficking prevention-related consultation for the United States Department of Health and Human Services, as well as other key private sector organizations (e.g., Facebook). 

Courtney Palm, LMFT specializes in trauma as it relates to victims with special needs.  She graduated from Pepperdine University with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and completed a three year internship with the Child Development Institute in assessment and treatment of children with neurocognitive disorders.  During her time at the Child Development Institute she completed training in evaluations using the Bayley, Mullen, and various other developmental assessments to determine cognitive, language, motor, and social-emotional skill levels.  After relocating to Denver, Colorado she worked with the University of Denver’s Fisher Early Learning Center, Children’s Hospital Colorado, and Early Intervention Colorado.  Her professional work with these agencies included evaluation, treatment, and professional education around intervention with children with special needs.  Courtney also worked with the Denver Children’s Advocacy Center and Blue Sky Bridge conducting trauma counseling and forensic interviews for victims of crime.  Courtney co-authored an article for the APSAC journal’s Best Practices column on conducting forensic interviews for children with special needs. 

By the end of this training, participants will be able to:

1) Understand how the three most common developmental experiences of children with special needs primes them to have increased rates of abuse and exploitation.

2) Evaluate the therapeutic environment using the Sensory Processing Measure and Sensory Profile to modify for five different areas of sensory processing.

3) Examine five developmentally-informed, therapeutic strategies to enable victims with special needs to better access the intervention.

4) Learn the neurological hierarchy of evaluating trauma responses in children with special needs that includes the four main areas of the brain (primitive, sensory, emotional, and cognitive) and how those vary from neurotypical children. 

5) Modify current abuse prevention protocols for three types of learning ability (nonverbal, limited communication, limited executive functioning) using the Prevention Screener to better support outreach in the special needs community.


Section I: Understanding the Victim 9am-12pm (break 10:30-10:40am)
1. Dynamics of Grooming 
    a.  Early intervention and therapy
    b.  Prevention education programs
    c.  Adult-child interactions
2. Special Considerations for Trauma Processing 
    a. Sensory Processing
    b. Pain/Stress thresholds
    c.  Theory of Mind and Executive Functioning
3. Caregiver Contributions
    a.  Community attitudes on abuse
    b.  Advocacy vs. Avoidance
    c.  Offender behavior
Section II: Therapeutic Intervention 1pm-4pm (break 2:30-2:40pm)
1. Establishing the Therapeutic Relationship
    a. Modifying the Treatment Environment
    b. Establishing Boundaries
    c. Evaluating Needs
2. Trauma-Informed Intervention
    a.  Primitive Regulation Strategies
    b.  Sensory Regulation Strategies
    c.  Emotional Regulation Strategies
    d.  Cognitive Processing of Trauma 
3.  Case Studies & Practice

This training is FREE OF CHARGE. Participants are responsible for travel, lodging and all meal expenses. Lunch is NOT provided.

The UP Project is pleased to offer travel scholarships in the form of reimbursement to victim service agencies that attend our in-person training events. Travel scholarships will be prioritized to agencies from rural counties.
Applications can be found here.

Continuing Education:  If you are interested in Continuing Education please apply and pay for credit at the training. Cash, card, and check payments.

  • Course meets qualifications for 6 hours of continuing education credit for LMFTs and LCSWs as required by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, $45, Provider #128510. The Center for Innovation and Resource, Inc. (CIR) is approved by the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists to sponsor continuing education for LMFTs and LCSWs. CIR maintains responsibility for this program/course and its content.

All attendees will receive a Certificate of Attendance. Participants may apply for continuing education credits (CEUs) at the event. Certificates for CEUs will be mailed to participants within two weeks following the event.

For more information, questions, or grievances, please contact Emma Nichols at emma.nichols@cirinc.org or 707-992-0537.

Individuals with disabilities who require accommodations to participate in this training should also contact Emma Nichols. Requests must be received by May 14, 2018.

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