Early childhood educators learn new ways to spot trauma triggers, build resiliency in preschoolers

Julie Kurtz, co-director, trauma-informed practices in early childhood education, WestEd Center for Child & Family Studies/photo by Laurie Udesky

A hug may be comforting to many children, but for a child who has experienced trauma, it may not feel safe.

That’s an example used by Julie Kurtz, co-director of trauma-informed practices in early childhood education at the WestEd Center for Child & Family Studies (CCFS), as she begins a trauma training session. Her audience, preschool teachers and staff of the San Francisco, CA-based Wu Yee Children’s Services at San Francisco’s Women’s Building, listen attentively.

Kurtz leads them into a description of how a child’s young brain functions, how young children – regardless of whether they have experienced trauma or not — live in their reptile brain.

“What’s the job of the reptile brain?” she asks.

“Survival” comes a response. “Yes, it’s fight, flight or freeze,” she says.

With guidance from adults, she explains, children’s immature brains develop neurons that build bridges to the rational part of the brain. The rational, executive part of the brain, she continues, is a place of calm, where we can plan, solve problems, and imagine how someone else interacting with us is feeling.

But if a child is in a state of terror, explains Kurtz, all bets are off. In that state, a child can’t hear what you’re saying or express herself in words, Kurtz says.

“What’s the strategy to calm a reptile brain?” she asks.

“It depends on the child…one idea is holding the child,” offers a teacher.

”Reassure the child,” suggests another teacher.

“Bring them to the current time,” another chimes in.

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Tonier Cain Deserves an Evidence-Based Apology

Tonier Cain. Photo: Yi-Chin Lee/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Editor’s note: Over 15 years, Tonier Cain was arrested 83 times, and convicted 66 times. She was addicted to crack. She was a prostitute. She had four children and lost them to child protective services. Remarkably, she didn’t give up hope, and one day, she found someone in the system who knew about trauma and who didn’t give up on her. Cain now advocates for trauma-informed care in prisons and mental health facilities. She gives speeches around the country and the world. Cissy White was fortunate to attend a conference in North Carolina where Cain gave a presentation. This is Cissy’s reaction.
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When Tonier Cain gave a keynote presentation at the Benchmarks’ Partnering for Excellence conference in North Carolina, it took me months to recover from her speech.
Seriously. It was hard to stand after she spoke. When I did, I went right to a yoga mat in the self-care calm room for a while. I took off my high heels and curled up in a ball for a bit.
I’m still digesting her words. It’s not that the content was intense and heavy, though it was. It wasn’t that she talked about a ton of traumatic experiences she had survived – though she did.

It’s not that my own trauma was triggered, though that happened.

It was the way she spoke about being let down so often by the systems she was often in and how often she was re-traumatized by them.

It’s the way she challenged my thinking so that I can no longer think about adverse childhood experiences without thinking about all of the ACEs – adverse childhood experiences and adverse community experiences and how intertwined they are.

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ACEs science can prevent school shootings, but first people have to learn about ACEs science

Afloridashooting

David Hogg, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, speaks at a rally calling for more gun control. Photo by Jonathan Drake / Reuters

After 17 people, mostly teens, were shot and killed by another teen last week in Parkland, FL, what seems to be a real movement is growing, propelled by kids devastated by their friends’ deaths and wanting to prevent such a massacre from ever happening again.

Their rallies and marches and lie-downs probably won’t have much effect in the short-term, as some of the Parkland teens learned as they witnessed — and some of them wept during — today’s lightning vote by state lawmakers along party lines to end debate on an assault weapons ban, which killed any further consideration of the bill in the Florida legislature’s current session.

But their persistence can make a difference in the long run, especially if they — and we — widen this to include the dozens of kids shot on the streets of Chicago or Camden or in other communities every week. We can even broaden the approach to include the 200 people, including many children, who died in Syrian air strikes in the last two days, because the roots and solutions are the same.

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Dozens of Kaiser Permanente pediatricians in Northern California screening three-year-olds for ACEs

kidsSince August 2016, more than 300 three-year-olds who visit Kaiser Permanente’s pediatric clinics in Hayward and San Leandro have been screened for adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as living with a family member who is an alcoholic or losing a parent to separation or divorce. But when the idea to screen toddlers and their families for ACEs was first broached at the Kaiser Permanente Hayward Medical Center, the staff were, in a word, “angsty,” says Dr. Paul Espinas, who led the effort.

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Giving “Zorgos Awards” to prevent bullying and ACEs

 

Zorgos_Cowan©Richard Luibrand

Local leaders were honored for using the power of “Zorgos.” Photo credit: Richard Luibrand


Zorgos
is an imaginary superpower that prevents bullying, coined by my co-author, Dr. Louise Hart, and myself for our book, The Bullying Antidote. Zorgos is the collection of learnable skills and/or qualities that calm, interrupt, or upshift bullying dynamics.

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Wisconsin aims to be first trauma-informed state; seven state agencies lead the way

Here in California, many people think that it’s only liberal Democrats who have a corner on championing the science of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and putting it into practice. That might be because people who use ACEs science don’t expel or suspend students, even if they’re throwing chairs and hurling expletives at the teacher. They ask “What happened to you?” rather than “What’s wrong with you?” as a frame when they create juvenile detention centers where kids don’t fight, reduce visits to emergency departments and shrink teen pregnancy rates….among many other things.

Because they do all this and more by abandoning the notion of trying to change people’s behavior by punishing, blaming or shaming them, and instead using understanding, nurturing and healing, some people might think this approach belongs to the purview of one political party.

Mmmmmm….Not so fast.

To paraphrase Tonette Walker, the First Lady of Wisconsin, married to Republican Governor Scott Walker, who was a GOP presidential candidate in 2016:

That’s ridiculous.

Her exact words were: “It’s ridiculous that people say this is a Democratic or Republican issue. We all care about issues concerning families and children. We all care about the outcome of people’s lives, no matter who you are.”

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Zorgos: A superpower we can teach kids

Zorgos: A superpower we can teach kids

This article contains two excerpts from the beginning and end of The Bullying Antidote: Superpower Your Kids for Life, by Dr. Louise Hart and Kristen Caven. The book explores how ACEs are created by stress, change, beliefs, and tradition, and provides a guide to positive parenting so that parents can prevent them in their children and communities.

 

The Bullying Antidote: Zorgos

Bullying is a power dynamic where one person exerts control over another physically, emotionally, or socially. Bullying can be persistent—a focused and repeated pattern—or it can be a single, traumatic event. In the bullying dynamic, one person always loses.

There is no pill, no quick fix for the enormous problem of bullying. But there are thousands of solutions…and we’d like you to have access to them all.

There is a superpower with which we’d like to endow your child, and all children. This power enables them to repel bullies and transform their relationships; it allows them to get what they need without resorting to bullying.

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