Best-selling memoir “Hillbilly Elegy” tells an inspiring story of overcoming ACEs


In search of insight into the country’s stark cultural divides in preparation for a week of potentially difficult conversations in Kentucky where I’d be attending family reunion and 50-year high school reunion, I dove into “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis” by J.D. Vance. Throughout this mesmerizing, painful, and hilarious memoir, I kept wondering if the author might know about the ACE Study. The answer was found on page 226 when “ACEs” jumps out at me and continues for several pages. I leapt from the living room sofa and darted to the kitchen to tell my fiancé Bill about it—and practically jump for joy.

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This EMT integrates ACEs, offers emotional first aid


Peter Chiavetta and the handouts he gives patients

One day, when Peter Chiavetta was just out of college, he was driving down a road in Eden, NY. Before he could even give the slightest conscious thought to his actions, he swerved off the road onto the shoulder. The car that was heading straight at Chiavetta slammed into the vehicle behind him.

“I thought I was a good prepared citizen,” recalls Chiavetta. “I had road flares and a two-pound fire extinguisher in the trunk of my car. I’m standing in the middle of the road with my little fire extinguisher, while on the ground the two passengers in the car behind me had been ejected and were lying motionless. Out of nowhere a man appeared with a first-aid kit and tried to help one of the victims. The driver — covered with blood and his knees are chopped down to bone — was calling out to me for help. I had no idea how to help him.”

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What does trauma-informed mean to foster youth?

Alisa 2015 Headshot

Alisa Santucci

By Alisa Santucci

For three decades, I have listened in awe to the brave voices of children, youth and families who have shared, in anguish, their past experiences — experiences that anyone would objectively call “adverse” and ones that can have lasting effects on health and well-being.

The seminal CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study opened my eyes to how pervasive their stories were and how these findings might influence the development of effective interventions and treatment, especially for system-involved young people.

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8 ways people recover from post childhood adversity syndrome


Cutting-edge research tells us that experiencing childhood emotional trauma can play a large role in whether we develop physical disease in adulthood. In Part 1 of this series we looked at the growing scientific link between childhood adversity and adult physical disease. This research tells us that what doesn’t kill you doesn’t necessarily make you stronger; far more often, the opposite is true.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)—which include emotional or physical neglect; verbal humiliation; growing up with a family member who is addicted to alcohol or some other other substance, or who is depressed or has other mental illness; and parental abandonment, divorce, or loss — can harm developing brains, predisposing them to autoimmune disease, heart disease, cancer, depression, and a number of other chronic conditions, decades after the trauma took place.

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7 ways childhood adversity changes a child’s brain



If you’ve ever wondered why you’ve been struggling a little too hard for a little too long with chronic emotional and physical health conditions that just won’t abate, or feeling as if you’ve been swimming against some invisible current that never ceases, a new field of scientific research may offer hope, answers, and healing insights.

Childhood trauma leads to lifelong chronic illness — so why isn’t the medical community helping patients?

ADonnaDadWhen I was twelve, I was coming home from swimming at my neighbor’s dock when I saw an ambulance’s flashing lights in our driveway. I still remember the asphalt burning my feet as I stood, paralyzed, and watched the paramedics take away my father. It was as if I knew those flashing lights were a harbinger that my childhood was over.

At the hospital, a surgeon performed “minor” elective bowel surgery on my young dad. The surgeon made an error, and instead of my father coming home to the “welcome home” banners we’d painted, he died.

The medical care system failed my father miserably. Then the medical care system began to fail me.

At fourteen, I started fainting. The doctors implied I was trying to garner attention. In college I began having full seizures. I kept them to myself, fearful of seeming a modern Camille. I’d awaken on the floor drenched in sweat, with strangers standing quizzically over me. Then, I had a seizure in front of my aunt, a nurse, and forty-eight hours later awoke in the hospital with a pacemaker in my chest.

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


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.

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