There is hope for the future.
That may seem like a broad statement, but it is true. If the future is our children and our children have potential, the future is in good hands.
Let’s start with the bad news first. Toxic stress physically damages a child’s developing brain, according to neuroscientists and pediatricians. The good news - science has proven that through neuroplasticity, the brain has the capacity for resilience.
One way to find out the risks for a child or community is through the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) test, which is a list of 10 questions about childhood exposure to violence, abuse and stress. The score shows potential risks for things like depression, disease, substance abuse and job potential, according to the CDC’s recently released Vitalsigns.
“It is critical to have an understanding of ACEs because the long-term effects of toxic stress can be significant,” Project AWARE Community Manager Amy Whitewater, M. Ed. said. “Toxic stress alters brain development, and children with high ACEs scores are more likely to have serious health issues and to turn to harmful substances as coping mechanisms. Negative outcomes associated with ACEs can impact the entire community.”
According to Whitewater, the Woodward Public School (WPS) faculty members have always worked to help children overcome unfortunate circumstances. Last year they received a multi-million dollar Project AWARE grant to assist in their endeavors.
“Through the grant, we have trained more than 300 school employees in Youth Mental Health First Aid and provided each of them with a classroom mental health support tub,” Whitewater said. “This training helps our staff members to better recognize the signs of trauma and stress and provides them with easy-to-implement strategies to help students in need.”
The AWARE therapist provides counseling services for students across the district. WPS has streamlined the referral process to local mental health providers, according to Whitewater.
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