Have you ever heard of Adverse Childhood Experience or Complex Trauma? I only first learned several months ago that it was being studied at universities, Kaiser Permanente and the Center for Disease Control for several years. It concerns me that this information has not been disseminated to providers and servicers of children, particularly, children with emotional and hostile behaviors and students experiencing problems [academic and behavioral] in school to name a few. However, it has been my position that the labels affixed to students with behavioral problems were children with deeper medical concerns than wanting attention in class or being angry with most adults and with their peers. Thus, the following is a tidbit of what I have gleaned from my inquiry into this area of research. In studying and focusing on school suspensions and expulsions, I knew that the rate was excessive, and the reasons for such disciplinary actions were often in violation of school policies, rather than criminal offenses. Many schools have taken the suspension/expulsion policy to the extreme. There is a fundamental problem when laughing in class [admittedly disruption] results in a five day in or out of school suspension. In recent years, childhood and teen behaviors have been criminalized and rarely are the underlying conditions addressed.
The Adverse Childhood Experiences study included over 17,000 Kaiser Permanente volunteer members. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) extrapolated identifying data about the members and then processed the information based on the answers from the volunteers (The Childhood Experiences [ACES]. They noticed many people experience severe adversities in their childhood. Of the participants, sixty-three percent (63 %) had experienced at least one category of childhood trauma. Another 20% experienced three or greater types of childhood trauma, which the researchers termed Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Conversely, 83 % of the participants experiencing, at least, one childhood adversity considering the categories used the results are significant.
The categories listed as The Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Study area:
- Physical and emotional abuse
- Physical and verbal abuse
- Child sexual abuse
- Emotional abuse and neglect
- Child physical abuse and neglect
- Witnessed mothers treated violently
- During their childhood had someone using alcohol/drugs in the house
- Mental illness in the household
- Deprivation of a parent as an outcome of separation or divorce
- A family member in jail or prison
ACEs in childhood cause mental health disorders and young women are likely to become sexually active before the age of 15, and boys or immature adult males are more likely to impregnate young teenage girls.
One of the goals of the study (Anda and Felitti, 2003) was to dispel the secrecy and shame associated with ACEs. This list is not all-inclusive of diseases linked to ACEs and Victims of Childhood Adversity according
- Alcoholism and alcohol abuse
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Liver disease
- Greater risk for intimate partner abuse
- Sexually transmitted infections/multiple sex partners
- Illicit drug use
- Suicide attempts
Do ACEs affect children’s behavior in school? Have the diagnoses that are typically labeling students with behavioral, learning impairments, or attention disorders been accurate considering these studies? Are schools providing training on ACEs? Moreover, are school psychologists, social workers, police personnel, and medical personnel aware that childhood adversities affect behaviors both in and out of the classroom?
Educators and school administrators could shift the pendulum from Attention Deficit Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Learning Disabled, and Oppositional Defiant (ADD, ADHD, LD, and ODD) for evaluating the events from childhood and the impact on school performance. It is important to understand the new science about ACEs and Complex Trauma and to address learning and behavioral needs as medical conditions rather than oppositional behavior.
To understand that 83% adults of the Kaiser Permanente and the CDC study experienced between one and greater than three categories of childhood trauma you may want to know your ACEs score. It is or should be, more enlightening that children are suffering at home and acting out in schools, which is probably the safest place they may very well have.
To find your ACE Score complete the information circle to the right on this page and receive the survey within 48 hours. Knowing your score may influence your interactions with children and the adults responsible for children to implement different strategies when dealing with behavioral problems. It may also be wise to understand that parents who themselves may have been victims of high ACEs scores lack the skills necessary to advocate sufficiently for their children.
Because of childhood trauma, it is important to speak with your health care provider about your childhood experiences. If your child suffered a childhood trauma, it is critical to talk with a health care provider and DO NOT FORGET TO BRING YOUR CHILD’S ACES RESULTS WITH YOU. Increase awareness of ACEs to school personnel, health care providers must be made so that there is a change the pendulum in obtaining data about childhood trauma during the intake of histories and physicals. Changing or shifting our focus from the current observations and the underpinning of science may, in fact, should cause a change from negative behaviors to positive behaviors when ACEs is accepted as an illness affecting behaviors, attitudes, and learning.
If you are interested in additional data on the studies reported in this blog, please leave comments, questions, thoughts, and concerns. DO NOT FORGET TO COMPLETE THE INFORMATION CIRCLE TO RECEIVE THE FORM TO DETERMINE YOUR ACE SCORE.
More information on Complex Trauma next posting!