By: Mary Jimenez, Early Childhood and Community Engagement Program Manager
Throughout my 11 years of Social Work, I have had a great deal of experience with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which are traumatic events causing long-lasting negative effects on the health and well-being of children. Used for many years in the areas of trauma informed care and therapy, ACEs is a well-known term within the medical community, but it is a relatively new term within the field of education. Children who are experiencing or have experienced trauma respond differently in the learning environment, and the knowledge of ACEs can provide the opportunity for educators to better understand their students and how to help them.
Dr. Robert Block, the former President of the American Academy of Pediatrics noted, “Adverse childhood experiences are the single greatest unaddressed public health threat facing our nation today.” Dr. Block believes this because 67% of the population has experienced at least one ACE. ACEs are categorized into three groups, abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction. Experiencing just one of these ACEs can result in negative behaviors and physical and mental health issues in children and adulthood. ACEs stunt the growth of their social, emotional and learning skills. Because of this, and since they are still children, victims do not understand what they are feeling and are not able to explain how they feel.
Anyone who interacts with children should be aware of the signs that a child is affected by trauma. An example is a child who is constantly complaining of, “tummy aches.” This child may be suffering from anxiety due to ACEs in their life. We should also approach the children with understanding, if we suspect ACEs are the reason for their behavior. We should approach the child with a question of, “What happened to you to you?” rather than, “Why are you doing this?”
It's important to train educators and others who work with children to identify ACEs. Bringing awareness to the education world can help educators better understand the child’s behavior as a symptom and allow them to respond more positively. Our team recently provided a platform to demonstrate the importance of ACEs and Trauma Informed Care at the Ready.Set.ReAD! Summit. Dr. Colleen Lelli, Director of the The Barbara and John Jordan Center for Children of Trauma and Domestic Violence Education, delivered an engaging keynote address on this topic. View the keynote address here.
To learn more about this subject, visit the Trauma Informed Care section of our website.