- Priority Target Areas
- Priority Risk and Protective Factors
Friday, March 6, 2015
Take The ACE Quiz — And Learn What It Does And Doesn't Mean
Child psychologist Hilit Kletter, of Stanford University's School of Medicine, says that to spot these children, she looks for visible signs of stress to understand what might have happened to them and how best to intervene. Some kids have nightmares or recurring thoughts of a stressful event, she says, or may re-enact the trauma through play. Or the child may seem distracted or withdrawn.
"This will come out at school," Kletter says. "Teachers will tell parents [their child] seems to be in a daze in the classroom, not paying attention."
ACEs Increase Health Risks
According to the Adverse Childhood Experiences study, the rougher your childhood, the higher your score is likely to be and the higher your risk for various health problems later. Kletter says reactions to trauma are sometimes misdiagnosed as symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, because kids dealing with adverse experiences may be impulsive — acting out with anger or other strong emotions.
"It's something that's very common in trauma: difficulty in regulating emotions and behavior," she explains. "That's why a lot of these kids get in trouble with the classroom."
Shonkoff's research center at Harvard tests interventions that can build resilience in kids who are growing up with adverse experiences — not just problems in the family, such as those the ACE study investigated, but also trauma stemming from poverty, for example, or from the chronic stress of racial or gender discrimination.
To bolster parents, the Harvard team is testing interventions right now that use video coaching to show moms and dads how to engage their babbling infants, using sounds and facial expressions in a style Shonkoff calls serve and return.
Shonkoff says these early interactions — a kind of conversation — have been shown to help children with later learning and literacy. Even more important, they boost kids' resilience, by helping them build secure attachments with caring adults. Research shows that just one caring, safe relationship early in life gives any child a much better shot at growing up healthy.