Adverse childhood experiences, also known as ACEs, are any kind of traumatic event a child may experience. These traumatic events include neglect, abuse, or exposure to violence, or suicide in their home lives. Unfortunately, experiences like this can cause lasting, chronic health problems such as mental illness or addiction as children grow into adults.
Adverse childhood experiences are all too common here in the United States. According to the CDC, “About 61% of adults surveyed across 25 states reported that they had experienced at least one type of ACE, and nearly 1 in 6 reported they had experienced four or more types of ACEs.” On top of that, women and several minority groups are at an even higher risk of having four or more ACEs throughout their childhoods.
Toxic stress, a result of prolonged stress caused by repeated exposure to trauma, severely impacts children’s abilities at forming healthy relationships, gaining employment, and maintaining good mental health. The CDC reports that toxic stress “can change brain development and affect such things as attention, decision-making, learning, and response to stress.”
Students who have been affected by trauma and adverse childhood experiences may struggle in traditional classroom settings. They may have difficulties paying attention, following instructions, or forming healthy relationships with other students and adults. Their brains have been impacted by trauma and we must acknowledge this and shift our way of thinking as educators.
Trauma has a profound impact on many of the students who walk into our classrooms every day. There are actions we can take in order to give these students the resources and skills they need to be successful, happy adults. Strategies such as social-emotional learning, mentoring, and trauma-informed education can help students break toxic cycles of abuse and mental illness.
We know that schools are struggling to reach students who’ve experienced trauma, which is why we have created this online course that gives you the tools and strategies to help your students, especially during this time of COVID.