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The Effects of Trauma

Nicole Thompson, The Urban School Psychologist

When the average person thinks of trauma, they think of a one time occurrence such as a violent act. However, trauma is much broader and can have an impact on a child's learning and development.

When the average person thinks of trauma, they think of a one time occurrence such as a
violent act. However, trauma is much broader and can have an impact on a child's learning and development. Recently, there has been an increase in research on trauma, particularly Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs). ACEs are any form of trauma that occurs before age 18 and can have a very negative impact on a child's physical and mental health. The typical ACEs, which were discovered on the well-known Kaiser Permanente study, includes emotional abuse, physical abuse sexual abuse, battered mother, household substance abuse, mental illness in the household, parental separation or divorce, and incarcerated household members.

In my own research, I found that there are many different instances of ACEs that can be added to that list, including the neighborhood that one lives in. In other words, when children live in poverty or low income neighborhoods, they experience a level of trauma that a typical person does not. For instance, living where there are Trap Houses, hearing gunshots or witnessing someone get murdered, losing loved ones to violence.

It's utterly important to be aware of what ACEs are and how it affects a child. Going through ACEs may affect physical health. In the book, The Deepest Well, Dr. Burke Harris uses the example of one of her patients who stopped growing after he was molested at the age of 4. Yes, it can be that damaging. Also, adults who have suffered from such incidents are more prone to get diseases such as heart disease, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and have a shortened life span.

Mentally, ACEs can impact learning causing deficits in reading, writing, and math. In addition, ACEs may also cause disruptive behaviors, defiance, anxiety, depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and many more. It's important to be aware of the trauma that a child may go through and have a discussion with their doctor if there is a change in physical or mental health. Parents are the most important advocates for their children and we encourage you to share any concerns you have regarding ACEs with our social worker or guidance counselor.