"trauma is not a story of something that happened long ago . . . it is the wound that is inside of you." -- Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk
Overview: Welcome back to my blog! In this post, I will officially introduce the topic of ACEs, address their long-term individual and societal consequences, and identify solutions to stop the spread of ACEs in our communities.
Note: The video above provides an overview of the topics I will be discussing in this week's post. If you would like to see more video content, like this post and comment below OR go to YouTube and like and subscribe!
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) has been a public health crisis for decades. Millions of Americans have experienced one or more ACEs in their lifetime; however, many do not yet understand the life-long consequences of their trauma or experiences or have not even recognized their adversity.
To explain just how common ACEs are, here are some statistics:
After learning these statistics, I was dumbfounded and furious that I hadn't known the extent of ACEs before January, 2020. I mean, how can the public not know about this crisis when over half of citizens experienced early adversity?!
Even though it may seem ironic, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris suggests that we ignore the problem simply because it DOES affect us. I think we don't want to face the problem because of how expansive it is. However, if we don't take action, the number of reports will increase with each generation, spreading the crisis into more neighborhoods and homes until we don't have the resources to address it.
Now, you might be confused as to why ACEs have been identified as a public health crisis. Let me explain. . .
ACEs impact every aspect of a child's health across their lifetime. At a young age, their brain development is impacted. Without supportive, consistent, loving care, a developing brain will not reach its full capacity and the child will fall behind. Keep in mind that brain development encompasses emotional, physical, and cognitive development.
In adolescence, their behavior and emotional development will be impacted. Studies have reported an increase in cases of ADHD and other behavioral problems in children who had experienced trauma or adversity in their childhood. In addition to emotional development, the lack of consistent, supportive care continues to impact their overall brain development, forcing them to fall even more behind into a state where support cannot reverse the effects of their ACEs.
Adults who grew up with ACEs in childhood have a greater risk for long-term health problems. These can include but are not limited to:
Additionally, the risk for developing any of these health problems increases with the number of ACEs a child experiences. For example, “someone with an ACE score of four had twice the risk of cancer and heart disease” (Crawford County Human Services, 2016, 3:03).
The question remains: what can we do to stop this crisis?
The primary solution is to intervene as early as possible. As the next generations come about, we need to intervene as soon as we can to provide consistent, supportive, high-quality care to children.
Everyone in a child's life shapes their development, including parents, caregivers, community members, teachers, and interactions with strangers. No matter who you are, you can make a difference in a child's life.
Be observant. If you notice symptoms of adversity, address it. Although there are some people who are required to report incidents of abuse or adversity, ANYONE CAN STEP UP.
What did you learn?
Would you like me to post more about ACEs and childhood trauma?
Will you take action? If so, how?
If you would like more information on how to call attention to this issue or to take further action, please visit the Call to Action page on this blog.
If you would like to learn more about ACEs, here are some additional resources:
WANT TO KNOW YOUR ACE SCORE? CLICK HERE
Ted Talk: How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime
Adverse Childhood Experiences in Minnesota Report
ACEs and the Lifelong Consequences of Trauma
Take action. Start the conversation. Be the change.
Meghan Hesterman (she/her) is a child advocate and education blogger. While a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), she created Journal of a Future Teacher to share her journey in becoming an early childhood teacher.