Emotional concussions can cause as much damage as physical concussions

concussion

With all the news about concussions: the long-term impact, cumulative impact, risk versus reward in letting kids play football and crash into each other versus experiencing teamwork, hard work, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, I believe we, as parents and people who love children, need to think about another type of concussion, one different than the crashing of heads in football helmets, or the smacking of the frontal lobe as a soccer ball is headered by a teenaged Mia Hamm wannabe.

Please consider, if you will, the emotional concussion.

If parents, sporting equipment companies, school systems, pediatricians, neuroscientists, researchers, journalists, and others in this debate would think about the emotional concussions suffered by children in homes run by addiction, abuse, and dysfunction, I believe we could help many more children.

I am talking about the one-in-four school-aged kids who live in homes run by alcohol and drugs. If you add in the children living in homes run by some other type of dysfunction – addictions to food, sex, pornography, spending, gossip, religion, and control, plus those who live in homes where there is physical, emotional, sexual, or spiritual abuse (though addiction, neglect, and other forms of abuse go hand-in-hand) the percentage of children affected goes way up.

The life-in-dysfunction emotional concussion is a day-in-day-out brain bludgeoning by stress-induced hormones of adrenaline and cortisol.  It wires developing brains for flight, fight or freeze. It can set people up to pass on the family legacy of dysfunction.

These ongoing emotional concussions set up a cascade of disasters, from trouble in school to teen pregnancies; from bullying to cutting; from bad choices to multiple divorces and continuous drama and upset. Unfortunately, for these children, there’s no coach or trainer on the sideline holding up three

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The growing interest in ACEs and trauma-informed practices

ACEStates2013

So much is happening in events, reports, research and news about adverse childhood experiences and trauma informed practices that it’s hard to keep up. But here are a few notable results:

  • According to Dr. Robert Anda, one of the co-founders of the CDC’s ACE Study, 21 states have done or are completing their own ACE surveys.
  • At last month’s National ACEs Summit in Philadelphia, PA, two unifying themes emerged: to be successful in preventing childhood trauma and to stop further traumatizing children and adults who are already traumatized, people have to work across professional silos and systems, and the changes have to occur at the community level. In other words — this ain’t a top-down endeavor. Martha Davis, executive director of the Institute for Safe Families, which hosted the summit, wrote up six interesting short overviews of the presentations. She and Kristin Schubert of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which sponsored the summit, wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer this week.
  • At that same meeting, ISFS released an ACE survey of Philadelphia — the first of a major U.S. city. The results were grim:  37.3% of adults experienced 4 or more ACEs — three times higher than the 12.5% in the CDC’s ACE Study. That works out to 432,100 people. This substantially increases their risk of long-term health effects. But, as to the city’s resilience factors, the results were also hopeful: 85% felt the “neighborhoods in which they grew up in were safe”, 77.5% thought their “neighbors looked out, supported, and trusted each other”, and 92.3% said that “someone made them feel special while growing up”.
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The crime fighter’s revolution — police in Canadian town use trauma-informed approach

crime….but they don’t call it trauma-informed. They call it Community Mobilization.

This is a must-read about a police department in the small Canadian town of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, pop. 35,000, that was dealing with 35,000 calls a year, which was double the number in 2001. The calls were on track to double again in eight years, until the department instituted what they call Community Mobilization, a concept they borrowed from police in Glasgow, Scotland.

Here’s an excerpt from the excellent story by Winnipeg Free Press reporter Randy Turner.

Seated around the table are representatives from every policing and social-services agency in the city: addictions, municipal police and RCMP, mental health, child services, probation, education. The works.

The analyst cites the first “case” — a 13-year-old girl recently reported missing by a guardian and found intoxicated by patrol officers. The girl was returned to her home. She had been truant and recently adopted a “poor attitude.” An investigation revealed the teenager had been a victim of abuse at the hands of a stepfather who had recently moved into the home.

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A theory of change from Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child

Frontiers of Innovation, part of Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, was launched in May 2011 at a meeting of 65 researchers and policymakers from diverse fields. They came with “minds wide open” to bridge their silos and developcreative approaches to help the most vulnerable children in society. This network has grown to more than 400 people.

The video provides a 5-minute look at the Frontiers of Innovation community’s goal of focusing on adults and strengthening communities to build a strong foundation for children’s lives. Here’s a slideshow that reviews the first year of work of this community.

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