Have you noticed how much more we talk about Trauma in our general society? Whether we read articles about it, listen to radio programming on the effects of it, hear more buzz words around it – we are surrounded by a shared understanding. Trauma is prevalent. Trauma is common. It’s okay for us to talk about Trauma.
Back in 1995, the CDC and Kaiser Permanente joined together to conduct a multi-year, longitudinal study involving over 17,000 participants, to learn about the effects of traumatic childhood experiences on health outcomes in adulthood. Research found that adverse experiences in childhood such as abuse, neglect, and other traumatic experiences lead to a host of risky behaviors, unmet potential, health problems, and early death in adulthood. This study has been repeated and reviewed numerous times and the links of Adverse Childhood Experiences to ongoing issues in adulthood are clear and evident to major leaders in policy and health across the nation.
Yet even with this increased openness and understanding around the concept of Trauma as a whole, I still witness hesitation and disbelief in the reality that children are experiencing trauma regularly in our community. Not just in our country or in our state, but in our own communities and our neighborhoods.
In 2018, the United Health Foundation published their report on America’s Health Rankings: Health of Women and Children, collecting data from numerous health initiatives, measurements, research and surveys. Arizona ranked 50th in the nation for the rate of Adverse Childhood Experiences in our children ages 0-17. More than 30% of our children in this state have been victim to at least 2 adverse childhood experiences in their lives, compared to the national average of 21.7%.
In this report, an Adverse Childhood Experience is defined as any of the following:
Out of Every 10 children in your classroom; the likelihood is that 6 of them has experienced at least one Adverse Childhood Experience; out of those 6, 3 of them have experienced two or more ACE’s in their brief lifetimes. More than half of all adults in Arizona have experienced at least one Adverse Childhood Experience in their childhood; with 1 in every 3 adults experiencing two or more ACE’s. There is a greater chance that the parent of the student you are working with has experienced more than two traumatic experiences in their youth, than to have experienced no trauma at all. What does that mean for you – one of the helpers in this child and family’s life?
Take a moment to remember some of the components that you have already learned.
As helper adults in a child’s life, we must take these components and blend them together, put them to use. By acknowledging and being purposeful in these core components, you are actually practicing your trauma sensitive lens.
Now, a word of warning, a lot of times, when we start practicing using our trauma-sensitive lens with students or families, we think we need to know each person’s trauma history in order to be trauma sensitive. But that’s not the case. Being trauma sensitive does not require knowing the details of a person’s trauma, nor does it mean you need to have personally experienced trauma in order to be sensitive to it. Using your trauma sensitive lens is acknowledging and being purposeful around the core components you have learned this year.
Take a moment and write out your answers to the following prompts. You can also talk about them out loud with a trusted friend. The important part is getting your thoughts out of your head – this is a way to practice and process using your trauma sensitive lens. Think of a student who is easy to be around:
Now think of a student who is hard for you to be around:
What do you notice about your answers when you’re being intentional with your trauma sensitive lens? Part of our survival guide involves being able to develop a trauma sensitive lens that prompts understanding regarding the meaning of your students’ behaviors.