Wilton therapist offers free emotional Rx in Newtown

After the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook that claimed the lives of 20 first graders and six educators, Wilton therapist Amanda Pasciucco volunteered in Newtown to provide free “psychological first aid” for those affected by the tragedy.

Ms. Pasciucco, who has an office at 250 Danbury Road, is a therapist and a life coach, and is also an experienced trauma counselor.

“I wanted to do this because I have the training and ability and wanted to be helpful,” said Ms. Pasciucco, who works with children who have trauma histories at the Clifford W. Beers Guidance Clinic in New Haven.

Ms. Pasciucco said she worked in Newtown with other therapists who “are providing reduced-rate or free services to those who are survivors or victims of the tragedy.”

The entire town was gripped by the shock and grief caused by the tragedy, she said. “There was sadness all around Newtown,” said Ms. Pasciucco, a Wilton native. “I worked with the teachers, administration, and children at Hawley Elementary School. We provided support to them if they needed it, because many of the people at Hawley Elementary School were friends and co-workers of the victims at Sandy Hook.”

“It was completely different than anything I have ever done before because this tragedy affected everyone in the whole town, the state, and really nationwide.”

As a therapist, Ms. Pasciucco said, the recurring question she was asked focused on what parents can do to help their children at this time.

In response, she advised, “The most important thing is to be with one another and get support from relatives and friends.”

Also, she suggested not putting a time frame on any kind of “recovery time.”

“No one can say how long it will take to recover from this incident,” she said. “Be aware that there may be a need for mental health services at this time. All children will respond in different ways. Do not be surprised to see acting-out behaviors.”

Some of these behaviors are:

• Fear of being alone.

• Anxiety and depression.

• Inability to concentrate.

• Grief and hopelessness.

• Changes in sleep patterns.

• Obsession over the shooting.

• Sensitivity to sounds.

To help address the problems, Ms. Pasciucco suggested that parents “remain open and non-defensive if children ask questions repetitively about the shooting and about their safety. If they need you to stay in their bed with them while they try to sleep, allow this behavior for a brief period of time. If they do not want to talk about it, do not force them to.”

Also, she urged parents to “make children feel safe. Tell children you are doing everything you can to keep them safe. Tell them that their schools are trying to protect them. Make a safety plan with them. Find safe places to hide, ways to escape rooms, and places where they agree to meet you outside the home in case of an emergency.”

Regular routines are also important for children at this time, she said. “Don’t break your rules. Maintain structure in the home. Do not forget children’s chores and curfews. Use additional check-ins with children for the next few weeks.”

Children’s consumption of the media coverage of the tragedy should also be monitored, Ms. Pasciucco said. “Try not to watch the news. Listening to the media coverage repetitively will keep the trauma alive and make children relive the horrific experience that they witnessed. Make sure you monitor what they are accessing about the incident on the television, Internet and phone.”

In addressing the issues, Ms. Pasciucco also advised that children be spoken to “in age-appropriate ways. A 5-year-old does not need to know details, but a 13-year-old may have numerous questions.”

After a tragedy of this magnitude, “it is important to constantly get support from family, or other organizations. Try to start a support group and try to keep to your regular routine,” Ms. Pasciucco said.

Information: therapybyamanda.com.