December 2019, ACEsPosted by Deb Brown on 12/1/2019 5:00:00 AM
Having been an educator now for over 40 years, I have seen trends come and go, practices resurface renamed, and technology become a common tool used in just about every classroom. I’ve seen the joy in a child’s face when they are praised by their teacher, the perseverance in learning when there is interest and meaning, and self-confidence develop when a student grows from childhood to adolescence.
But, I have also seen the heart wrenching impact that trauma has on a child. New research is helping educators become more aware of the hardships that children face and the impact that those events have on their readiness to learn. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study that was conducted in 2016 by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that telling a child to “pull up their boot straps” or “just get over it” was counterproductive for those growing up in households with substance misuse, mental health problems, dysfunctionality, or instability due to parental separation or incarceration of a parent, sibling, or other members of the household. It’s no wonder that-- when the word “thief” is scratched into the forehead of a child because they got into their mom’s makeup, or a child is denied glasses because they don’t “deserve” them, or an adolescent, having been abused by a relative, begins to self-harm—mastering math facts or rattling off the names of the states pales in comparison to their need for self- preservation. The ACEs study equips school administrators, teachers, guidance counselors, support staff and all who interact with children, with valuable strategies for interacting with those who may be struggling in silence.
Yes, I’ve seen much in the last 40+ years. Today, with the information we have about childhood trauma, we can create systems of support for students in a significant way. Remembering always that young lives are fostered and molded by their relationships with peers and adults, we must listen with empathy, wrap around with kindness, and take action with purpose. A child only has one childhood. Let’s help them make it one filled with everything they need to become happy, productive, content adults.
For more information on the CDC’s study on childhood trauma (ACEs), go to
Pamela Stiles, Superintendent