At The Knowledge Center, we believe relationships are primary. We know that relationships have to be the foundation to the work we do with children so they have the most success and healing when overcoming trauma. Whether it’s in the classroom, therapy office or principal’s office – relationships are the core to fully supporting children and families.

But what does prioritizing relationships look like? And does it actually make a difference? Here is a story of how relationships made all the difference for one of the students in Chaddock’s Special Education School in Quincy, IL.


School Counselor Jennifer Stajduhar told us about Riley, who started attending Chaddock’s school in middle school. During her first year, Riley would often huddle underneath the staircase or in the corner of the school entryway instead of entering her classroom or participating in activities. Jennifer would try to connect with Riley, but she’d get little to no response.

Jennifer says the fundamental shifts occurred through the development of their counseling relationship. Jennifer arranged a space to help her open up during their counseling sessions. The space reduced stimuli – like sound – Riley found overwhelming. This was a space where Riley slowly started to tell Jennifer about herself.

But this process took time. Riley often she found it difficult to identify if she liked or disliked people, places, or things.
Jennifer said she discovered that Riley’s struggle to connect and engage was rooted in a sense of safety for herself from a very young age. She was a child who had grown used to being alone and had learned to meet many of her own needs.

Once she accepted the counseling relationship they built, Riley allowed Jennifer to guide her into class- room expectations, school rules, social interactions, self-management, increasing communication of her needs, and how to cope with overwhelming senses or emotions.

Riley will be a Junior this year. She manages her high school schedule and is a member of academic talent search! She’s in the moment more than she’s ever been. If she’s overwhelmed or anxious about an activity or assignment, she often will sit and listen or seek outside support.

The safe relationship Jennifer and Riley established helps her bravely face the uncertainty she feels.

Riley used to project fear and anxiety, curled into the corner of a stairwell or entryway, hoping to not be seen. Now, she walks into our school confidently with a sense of belonging.
Riley’s success and growth all started with relationship.

client name has been changed for privacy