High School for Recording Arts students in MN write song about how to counter toxic stress on kids’ brains

“Breathe” was written and produced by Ezekiel Miller and Isaiah Conaway, two students at the High School for Recording Arts in St. Paul, MN. According to the YouTube blurb, the song “was inspired by the research being done around the causes of traumatic stress on children’s brains ages 0-3 years old. This information needs to be delivered to the youth to effect change and Ezekiel and Isaiah chose music to be the vessel.”

On some days, under some circumstances, we’re all three-year-olds at heart

Jarrod Green is a preschool teacher in Philadelphia who posts on a blog called “If I Ran the Circus“. Yesterday he linked to the story I wrote about Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, WA, and noted that changing its policy from merely punishing bad behavior to determining what the behavior means, helping a teen understand the connection, working with the teen to find healthier ways to cope with stress and build resilience, and still adding consequences for the behavior “sounds remarkably like standard practice in high-quality preschools.”

His whole post is definitely worth reading. Here’s a vignette he provided that will melt your heart.

I remember a hitting incident in my 3′s classroom once where the hitter seemed more upset about it than the hit-ee. Instead of saying “You may not hit” or “Why did you do that,” I did some quick thinking about what I knew about the child. I knelt down and said quietly, “Are you thinking about your mom because she’s out of town?” The child nodded and fell into my arms. “I know,” I said, “It’s hard when she goes away. Let’s make sure your friend is okay, and then we’ll sit together and write your mom a letter.” (Note that, for a teacher to be successful at this strategy, it helps to know what’s going on at home.)

The important thing to note is that, under some circumstances and on some days (and for some severely traumatized people, under most circumstances on most days), teenagers are just very large versions of three-year-olds. So are adults.

Shopping for families; selling unconscious desires


After decades as an American consumer, I have finally developed the acumen necessary for surviving the holiday shopping season. With the exception of a few hectic hours, I have so far successfully avoided malls and online shopping. Truly, I feel blessed this holiday season.

Unfortunately, I have not escaped saturation with advertisements for the makings of the traditional holiday feast and ideas for the perfect gift–which seem to always come in denominations of “under $25, $50, & over $100.” Radiantly happy families adorn these ads, jockeying for space with cashmere shawls, Norelco razors, and discounted turkeys.

What’s really being sold? Modern American consumerism is steeped in psychological manipulation. The pioneer of modern propaganda and public relations, Edward Bernays, was the nephew of Sigmund Freud. Taking cues from his uncle, Bernays originated the enduring trend of selling to unconscious desires rather than actual needs. Do Americans want more shawls and razors, or do they really want (and need) more loving families?

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What prisons, sugar and health care costs have in common (besides some cool infographics)

We know that people use many different substances and activities to cope with the toxic stress produced by suffering adverse childhood experiences. Those substances and activities include, but are not limited to, methamphetamine (which was once prescribed as a legal antidepressant in the U.S.), alcohol, tobacco, food (especially fats and sugars), sex, thrill sports, exercise and even working too much.

By preventing childhood trauma and by changing our systems — such as education and health — to avoid traumatizing already traumatized people, we’d save billions of dollars. Billions. Never mind the increase in the number of healthier, happier people in the world.

Take prisons. Face the Facts USA, a nonpartisan information resource from the Center for Innovation at The George Washington University, a did a slide show called “U.S. is the World’s Imprisonment Capital“. Some pertinent facts:

It costs about $60 billion a year to keep state and federal prisoners behind bars. States shoulder the biggest share, 85 percent or $51 billion. Federal prison costs are 15 percent or close to $9 billion.

Among federal inmates in 2010: about half (51 percent) were serving time for drug offenses, 35 percent for violations of “public order” offenses like weapons charges or immigration law violations, and less than 10 percent each for violent and property offenses.

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The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study in a video nutshell

Dr. Robert Anda, one of the co-founders of the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, did this three-minute explainer about the ACE Study, its implications, and its uses. SAMHSA –the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration produced the video.

Grief in the aftermath of a superstorm

A home lost when Sandy hit the Northeast. AP photo.

Since 1975, natural disasters increased by 430%. Yet percentages mean little to those whose homes, communities, and livelihoods crumbled as Hurricane Sandy collided with the Atlantic Seaboard. Thank goodness for the volunteers, places of worship, civic-minded organizations, and professionals who plan for the unthinkable, and are there when shock and disaster overwhelm the capacity to take care of oneself and loved ones.

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Survey finds teen, young mothers using Crittenton services have alarmingly high ACE scores

Jeannette Pai-Espinosa, president, National Crittenton Foundation

Even these days, when a 14-year-old girl gets pregnant, popular opinion says she’s a loser or stupid, and she deserves whatever happens to her. She often ends up in juvenile detention, on the streets or living with someone who abuses her.

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