By ESTELLE SLOOTMAKER | THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2019, Published in Second Wave Michigan
This article is part of State of Health, a series examining integrated care and its potential to improve Michiganders' health. It is made possible with funding from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.
Divorce, a parent's death or imprisonment, domestic violence, sexual abuse, and the daily experience of racism. They're all sadly common events, known as adverse childhood experiences or ACEs. But the increasingly common practice of trauma-informed education aims to ensure that educators identify ACEs and compassionately foster resilience in kids who experience them.
"We need to pay attention to the social and emotional needs of students. When we begin to look through this lens, we come to the understanding that most of the population — some 60% — have had trauma," says Alison Arnold, director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Community Health and Wellness at Central Michigan University (CMU).
Experiencing four or more ACEs puts children at higher risk for academic failure and behavioral problems as well as mental illness, substance abuse, and physical disease as adults.
"Over the lifetime, we now know all kinds of chronic illnesses stem from trauma, for example, asthma, heart disease, and diabetes," Arnold says. "These chronic conditions have an early root cause in trauma and adversity. If we are going to take down these serious illnesses, we have to go way upstream and find where they are rooted."
Arnold notes that trauma releases stress hormones that not only impact a child's brain but also directly affect the metabolism and other body systems. That impact is more severe when the trauma occurs during key developmental stages, especially when a child does not have other supports to buffer the trauma and provide some feeling of safety.
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