Approximately one year ago at an area resource teacher meeting, I was introduced to the concept of Adverse Childhood Experiences (What are ACEs?). We watched Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’ TED Talk on how childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime:
In our course readings, I found it fascinating to read about the origins of the ACE Study and how it was derived from treating patients for obesity who also had links to traumatic experiences such as sexual abuse and other types of abusive childhood experiences. Dr. Felitti and Dr. Anda were the two co-principal investigators. Felitti (2019) states, “The purpose of the ACE Study was to determine the prevalence of ACE in a general population and how they played out in adults decades later” (p. 788).
As an educator, I think that it is extremely important to be aware of the fact that many of our students are facing childhood adversity. Through our course work and the Brain Story Certification course, we have learned that a supportive, responsive adult with a positive relationship with the child in question can actually help to buffer and reduce some of the effects of toxic stress and ACEs.
In a recent interview with Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, she advocates for teachers to have the proper training to be able to recognize the symptoms of an overactive stress response in order to improve outcomes for students through early detection and intervention:
Well, what it starts with is training for every teacher, every police officer, every judge, every lawyer, every mom, every dad, every aunty, every uncle to be able to, number one, for example recognize that when a child is or a young person is showing up in school and they may be showing symptoms of an overactive stress response, right, so they may be having different — difficulty with impulse control or an angry outbursts or something along those lines. Instead of being responded to with more anger, negative, punitive policies and responses, we start to — we can ask the question of this young person instead of what is wrong with you, what happened to you, right. We can have the opportunity for educators to recognize their opportunity to be a nurturing buffer to that young person.
Furthermore, Dr. Burke Harris is now advocating to screen every student for trauma before they enter school. She states, “The opportunity ahead of us is about a true intersection of health care and education” (Gaines, 2019). I think that this is a revolutionary proposal that would not only help students, but it would help teachers to know how to teach to the students, with a compassionate understanding of their background. Many students with a trauma background present with symptoms of ADHD and other disorders, when in fact, it is the ACEs that they have experienced in the past that is causing their behaviours.
Burke Harris, N. (2014, June). How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/nadine_burke_harris_how_childhood_trauma_affects_health_across_a_lifetime?utm_campaign=tedspread&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tedcomshare
Felitti, V. (2019). Origins of the ACE Study. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 56(6), 787-798.
Gaines, P. (2019, October 11). California's first surgeon general: Screen every student for childhood trauma. Retrieved October 15, 2019, from https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/california-s-first-surgeon-general-screen-every-student-childhood-trauma-n1064286?fbclid=IwAR2qZIpD0czErLMuKFc0cMSlBzuuRdecUpg9Kp-ayGhLENuAp_BHj71Ayp4
PBS. (2019). Nadine Burke Harris on the Impact of Childhood Adversity. Retrieved October 15, 2019, from https://www.pbs.org/wnet/amanpour-and-company/video/nadine-burke-harris-on-the-impact-of-childhood-adversity/?fbclid=IwAR1suwUzQXr1CWzjPbc8U7jDxAnuZlVUQJ1zjTSwOjvDKn8FoQvH2Mg4qLU
What Are ACEs? And How Do They Relate to Toxic Stress? (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2019, from https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/aces-and-toxic-stress-frequently-asked-questions/