Which version is your kid’s school?

This fabulous video from Atlanta Speech School shows what a trauma-informed/resilience building school looks like — and what a school looks like that hasn’t incorporated these practices.

We’ve done stories about schools that have incorporated practices based on the science of adverse childhood experiences. This science includes who suffers and the consequences (the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study and other epidemiological studies), the effects of toxic stress that these experiences have on a child’s brain and body, how the consequences of these experiences can be passed from generation to generation, and the resilience research that shows our brains are plastic and our bodies want to heal.

Here’s a list:

Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, WA, tries a new approach to school discipline; suspensions drop 85% — This led to the making of the amazing documentary Paper Tigers, which followed six Lincoln High School students for a year.

At Cherokee Point Elementary, kids don’t conform to school; school conforms to kids — San Diego, July 2012

There’s no such thing as a bad kid in these Spokane, WA, trauma-informed elementary schools — Spokane, WA, August 2013

Q-and-A with Suzanne Savall, principal of trauma-informed elementary school in Spokane, WA    — Spokane, WA, August 2013

The Restorative Justice League of Le Grand High School jumps in to save the day — Le Grand, CA, September 2013

Risk Factors for Today’s School-Age Youth September 2013 (Paladin Technical High School’s 25-point obstacle (risk factor) evaluation)

San Francisco’s El Dorado Elementary uses trauma-informed & restorative practices; suspensions drop 89% January 2014

Lessons learned: Implementing Trauma-Informed Practices in a School (planning phase) April 2015

A trauma-informed school wasn’t part of my plan, but now it’s my life’s work — Minnesota, April 2015

Minnesota high school screens students for ACEs to develop trauma-informed education April 2015

Resilience practices overcomes students’ ACEs in trauma-informed high school, say the data May 2015

We’ll be doing more later this year.

 

 

Violence is just one part of childhood trauma. So why are we focusing so much on childhood violence?

Awhack

Whac-A-Mole players (photo by Laura)

Many people and organizations focus on preventing violence with the belief that if our society can stop violence against children, then most childhood trauma will be eradicated.

However, research that has emerged over the last 20 years clearly shows that focusing primarily on violence prevention – physical and sexual abuse, in particular – doesn’t eliminate the trauma that children experience, and won’t even prevent further violence.

“Although violence can beget violence, it’s hardly the only cause of violence,” says Dr. Vincent Felitti, co-principal investigator of the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study), groundbreaking epidemiological research that showed a direct link between 10 types of childhood trauma and the adult onset of chronic disease, mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence, among many other consequences.

“Basically there’s lots of other ways,” he says. “Humiliating people. Isolating people. Verbally provoking them. All of those have potential for producing violence in response.”

In addition, violence can provoke nonviolent behavior that can be just as damaging as violence.

In other words, childhood trauma does not equal only violence.

The many types of childhood trauma

Violence is just one among many types of childhood trauma. The ACE Study found that violence is not more – or less — damaging than divorce, living with a parent who’s an alcoholic, being yelled at nearly every day of your childhood, or emotional neglect. Just as important, it rarely happens alone. If a child is experiencing violence, there’s usually some other type of trauma happening, too.

In fact, the entire approach to preventing violence against children – by focusing on only one type of trauma, by focusing on the child and ignoring the parents or caregivers, by ignoring the toxic stress imposed on the child and family by traumatizing systems – is so outdated that pioneers in this arena compare our current approach to a never-ending game of Whac-A-Mole.

They propose a completely different approach, one that focuses on creating and growing resilient children, families, organizations, systems and communities. It’s an approach that moves from blame, shame and punishment, to understanding, nurturing and healing.

The ACE Study is part of what’s being called a “unified science” of human development that recasts our understanding of how to solve our most intractable problems, such as poverty and homelessness, as well as childhood trauma. It comprises five areas of research:

  • the epidemiology of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs),
  • the neurobiology of toxic stress (the brain),
  • the biomedical consequences of toxic stress (the body),
  • the epigenetic consequences of toxic stress (passing from parent to child),
  • and resilience research.

Others call this “the theory of everything” in human development or NEAR science (neurobiology, epigenetics, ACEs, resilience). I just call it ACEs science.

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Time and again: This time, Orlando, and again more pertinent questions must be asked

Mourners in Orlando. Photo credit: Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

Mourners in Orlando. Photo: Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

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For those of us who know that childhood adversity can lead to chronic disease, mental illness, and violence, among other consequences, the questions about Omar Mateen, the man who killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in an Orlando night club early Sunday morning, aren’t answered yet. In fact, most of the questions that would address the roots of his violent actions — and our successful efforts to prevent other mass shootings — haven’t even been asked.

There are a couple of hints. According to this New York Times article, “Mr. Mateen had a chilling history that included talking about killing people, beating his former wife and voicing hatred of minorities, gays and Jews…”

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“Silent Evidence” worth hearing about

Tennessee Jane Watson’s audio story, Silent Evidence, is about the sexual abuse she experienced when she was a girl, at the hands of an instructor. She’s posted two of three episodes. The first is below. Here’s the description, from her website, SilentEvidenceProject.com:

Sometimes silence protects us. Sometimes silence does us harm. The story of one young woman as she faces her abuser, the criminal justice system and most of all, herself. 

Watson says the real story behind all the headlines about sexual abuse is that most people who have survived sexual abuse never talk about it. On her site, she says that one out of 10 people experience sexual abuse, but the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study), says it’s one out of five.

In Silent Evidence Watson breaks through the barrier of silence with a story focused on the “ramifications of sexual abuse, as they are lived by her and the people closest to her, over the course of a 28-year journey to go public.”

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Troubled moms and dads learn how to parent with ACEs

Afamilycenter

A father in county jail is ordered to take a parenting class, but isn’t too enthusiastic about it. As part of the class, he learns about the ACE Study, and does his own ACE score.

“Oh my god!” he announces to the class. “I have 7 ACEs.” His mother’s an alcoholic. His dad’s been in and out of jail. He himself started dealing drugs at age 11, and doing drugs at 14.

“I’ve got two kids at home experiencing the same things I did,” he says. The light bulb goes on.

A few days after a woman who’s ordered by the court to take parenting classes learns about her ACE score, she quits smoking.

“I’ve been smoking for years,” she tells the class. “My ACE score was one of the reasons.” She quit, she says, because she decided smoking wasn’t helping her children.

Another parent of three kids was saddened when he did his ACE score.

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Five-minute video primer about Adverse Childhood Experiences Study

Many people have been asking for a short video that explains the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, the groundbreaking epidemiological research that revealed the link between childhood trauma and the adult onset of chronic disease, mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence.

KPJR Films, which came out with Paper Tigers last year and Resilience this year, put together this wonderful five-minute overview of the ACE Study. It was edited by Jen Bradwell.

KPJR Films’ executive producer is Karen Pritzker. Its director-producer is James Redford.

“Resilience” premieres at Sundance Film Festival to sold-out houses

(l to r) Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, who appears in Resilience; Robert Redford, father of Resilience director James Redford; Clifford Beers Guidance Clinic site coordinator Laura Lawrence, who appears in Resilience; Resilience producer and director James Redford; Resilience co-producer Dana Schwartz

(l to r) Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, who appears in Resilience; Robert Redford, father of Resilience director James Redford; Clifford Beers Guidance Clinic site coordinator Laura Lawrence, who appears in Resilience; Resilience producer and director James Redford; Resilience co-producer Dana Schwartz

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Resilience, a documentary that looks at the birth of the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study and how it spawned a movement across the world, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday. The first two screenings — both on Friday — were sold out.

Not bad for a film whose director, James Redford, wasn’t even planning on submitting it to the festival.

The buzz started before the festival even began. Wired.com listed Resilience as No. 2 in the 25 documentaries not to miss. WhatNotToDoc.com also singled it out. Nonfictionfilm.com did a story about the documentary.

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