ACEs, Trauma and Brain Development
The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study by CDC and Kaiser Permanente is one of the largest research of childhood abuse and neglect and its impact on adult health and well-being. ACEs are traumatic events a child may experience (age 0-17 years). These events include:
- Abuse (physical, emotional, or sexual)
- Neglect (physical or emotional)
- Household Challenges in a child’s environment that can undermine their sense of safety, stability, and bonding such as growing up in a household with:
- Witnessing violence in the home (domestic violence) or community
- Substance abuse
- Incarcerated parent or other household member
- Family member attempt or die by suicide
- Mental illness of a family member
Research shows that ACEs can have a negative effect on a child’s brain development, and health, well being and academic and professional opportunities. ACEs are linked to many consequences including:
- Chronic health problems (cancer, diabetes, heart disease, lower life expectancy)
- Mental illness (depression, suicide)
- Substance abuse
- Increase in risk of injury, STD, maternal and child health problems, teen pregnancy, and involvement in sex trafficking.
- Toxic Stress, frequent and prolonged stress, can dramatically change how the brain develops and increase the risk of health and social problems throughout a lifetime.
- Lower academic performance for children.
- Unstable work or job opportunities in adulthood leading to financial struggles.
However, ACEs can be prevented. Creating and sustaining safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children and families can prevent ACEs and help all children reach their full potential.
Building Connections and Relationships
• In the absence of a caring relationship, trauma can disrupt healthy brain development
• Communities can promote healthy brain development through relationship building
• Promoting healthy brain development is essential to individual and community well-being
Positive experiences can buffer those bad experiences. Whenever we talk about ACEs, it is equally important to discuss relational wealth – being connected in a healthy way to a social network. Research reinforces that positive interactions and experiences for children and families foster healthy development. This can extend to the larger community, thus emphasizing that one caring adult can make all the difference.
RELATIONSHIPS ARE THE FOUNDATION OF HEALTHY BRAIN DEVELOPMENT
What is Connections Matter?
Connections or healthy relationships are a crucial to the ACEs prevention. Science tells us that relationships have the power to shape our brains. Relationships help us learn better, work better, parent better. When we experience tough times, they help us heal. With each connection, we develop a healthier stronger community.
Connections Matter, designed by by Dr. Linda Chamberlain, is a training session designed to engage community members in building caring connections to improve resiliency, prevent childhood trauma, and understand how our interactions with others can support those who have experienced trauma.
The Connections Matter Georgia, a collaboration between the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy (GCCA) and Prevent Child Abuse Georgia (PCA GA), was specifically adapted for Georgia audiences. Raise Me Up Foundation joined the initiative in 2019 to serve the Henry County community.
CONNECTIONS MATTER IS A COMMUNITY EFFORT.
Connections Matter is a community-based initiative that explores how the connections we make in life profoundly impact the brain’s ability to grow and our ability to cope and thrive. During the training session, we educate the public on the intersecting topics of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), trauma, brain development, and resilience. We utilize an evidence-informed program, along with real-world and concrete examples, to demonstrate how ACEs adversely affect brain development and health outcomes – and how caring connections serve as a primary buffer in the negative effects of trauma. Connections Matter ultimately strives to promote the building of more resilient, compassionate, and trauma-informed communities – thus allowing all children and individuals to succeed.
“Resilience does not that Children “Get Over It”. It does mean that the caring adults in their lives have a lot of power to buffer, rather than cement, the effects of Toxic Stress.” – Amanda J Moreno, PH.D. Erickson Institute
Director James Redford’s documentary, Paper Tigers, looks at the effects of childhood trauma on the youth of Walla Walla, Washington, and how one community transformed its culture to respond. The film follows six students as teachers, administrators, health professionals and counselors come alongside to support them through stressful life events. At Lincoln Alternative High School, Principal Jim Sporleder leads staff through the process of reforming discipline practices after learning about the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. As the staff build stronger relationships with struggling students, the school becomes an example of how a single, caring adult can break the cycle of adversity in a young person’s life. The film offers a compelling example of how caring connections can improve the well-being of youth, adults, and the overall community.
The Connections Matter training lasts 4-hours which can be done in one session or split up into two sessions and can be offered virtually. This training is approved for 4 hours of CEU credit: LPCs, LMFTs, LCSW, Law Enforcement, and Bright from the Start.