EMPATHETIC UNDERSTANDING OF: ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES

Image by Robina Weermeijer

summary:

Harvard University: Centre on the Developing Child. 

Above graphic created in partnership with Children First Canada's Young Canadian's Parliment and Starlings Community 

Brains Journey to resilience:

BRAIN STORY

Lifelong health is determined by more than just our genes: experiences at sensitive periods of development change the brain in ways that increase or decrease risk for later physical and mental illness, including addiction. That finding is the premise of the Brain Story, which puts scientific concepts into a narrative that is salient to both expert and non-expert audiences. The Brain Story synthesizes decades of research and reflects a body of knowledge that experts agree is useful for policy-makers and citizens to understand.

Dust Storm

The key role of a caregiver is to help a child regulate their

stress response.

whats the catch?

an adult must be able to regulate their own stress response when under distress. 

If an adult has a history of adverse childhood experiences, they may have a hard time regulating their own emotions, creating additional stress in the child.

Dr. Linda Mayes

BABIES experience stress, too.

STILL FACE EXPERIMENT:

AT BIRTH, HUMAN BABIES CANNOT REGULATE THEIR OWN STRESS RESPONSE.

An adult's calm during a child's stress, helps the child to calm down, turns off their stress response. This happens over and over again and helps the child's brain to develop in healthy ways. If a child's needs are consistently unmet, this can cause a toxic stress response, that can derail healthy brain development.

TOXIC STRESS:

BABIES experience stress, too.

STILL FACE EXPERIMENT:

AT BIRTH, HUMAN BABIES CANNOT REGULATE THEIR OWN STRESS RESPONSE.

An adult's calm during a child's stress, helps the child to calm down, turns off their stress response. This happens over and over again and helps the child's brain to develop in healthy ways. If a child's needs are consistently unmet, this can cause a toxic stress response, that can derail healthy brain development.

OUR BRAIN DEVELOPS FROM THE BOTTOM UP.

JUST LIKE A HOUSE, THE FOUNDATION THAT EACH LAYER IS BUILT ON DEPENDS ON HOW "STURDY" THE LOWER LAYERS ARE. 

3. PREFRONTAL CORTEX ("Thinking brain"): turns on around age 5-7, and continues to develop until age 25+. Home of our executive functioning which includes  planning, learning, impulse control, understanding consequences, understanding another's perspective.

2. MIDBRAIN: turns on at around age 2, considered our emotional brain, and houses our amygdala-the fire alarm of our brain; fear response, filters information, memory

1. BRAINSTEM: fully functioning at birth, home to automatic functions such as breathing, heart beat, blood pressure, temperature

Our brain when CALM versus when experiencing STRESS:

When a childhood experiences a high dose of STRESS, this can disrupt how the prefrontal cortex develops, and can sensitize the amygdala and the stress response. The chemical released with stress can cause wear and tear and all body organs, including the brain and our the endocrine system.

Brains_edited_edited.jpg

HOW DOES TOXIC STRESS (TRAUMA) IMPACT THE DEVELOPING BRAIN?

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are a form of toxic stress.

ACEs

Understanding that all children NEED secure and healthy attachments to grow with resilience, means also understanding that not all children are able to receive this within their home.

1998 aces study:

ACEs are extremely common:

  • 2/3 individuals has experiences 1 ACE

  • ACEs generally do not occur in isolation; if you have 1, you are 87% likely to have 2 or more.

16% of the population has an ACE score of 4 or more: research shows individuals with 4 or more ACEs are at increased risk of mental, physical, and social ailments into adulthood.

IMPACT: 

  • behaviour, learning, and attention difficulties.

  • decreased ability to cope with day to day stressors

  • difficulty making and maintaining relationships

  • increased prevalence of physical and mental illness

A person with 4 or more ACEs is:

  • 12 times as likely to attempt suicide

  • 10 times as likely to use injection drugs

  • 7 times as likely to be an alcoholic

INCREASED RISK DOES NOT MEAN DESTINY

SUPPORTS

RISK

PROTECTIVE FACTORS:

Tropical Leaves

CHILDREN ARE NOT BORN RESILIENT, AND DO NOT GROW WITH RESILIENCE BECAUSE OF THE ADVERSITY THEY ENDURE. THEY GROW WITH RESILIENCE BECAUSE OF THE CARING PEOPLE, THE CULTURE, AND THE NURTURING ENVIRONMENT THAT SUPPORTS THEM DESPITE THEIR ADVERSITY.

The ACE Study: Building Self-Healing Communities

with Dr. Robert Anda:

“ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES ARE PROGRESSIVE, OF COURSE THEY EFFECT CHILDREN, BUT THEY PILE UP IN ADOLESCENTS AND INTO ADULTHOOD.

 

OUR JOB IS TO STOP THE PROGRESSION AND CREATE

SELF HEALING COMMUNITIES."

Resilience Theory with Dr. Michael Ungar

"Ending Discrimination with Love, Glitter, and Action" with

Cindy Blackstone

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