ACEs in an Educational Setting
This is such a poignant quote.
It will make any practitioner sit up and think. Such powerful words demonstrating the impact on a young person's life because the teacher was ACE-informed.
What the teachers said:
'They might be more introverted at school and people assume it's exam stress, not ACEs. But the programme allowed these children to come forward and disclose that they are struggling. For all the educational support, there is still a gap. These are the children that go undetected as they don't cause a problem in school. But you don't always know what is going on under the surface. It's the iceburg or the swan analogy. It's a gap. But if the project means we deal with that gap, then good! We are prepared to accept that there is a big gap rather than deny that there is an issue.'
Why should we be ACE informed in an educational setting?
The epidemilogy of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) provides the strong link between ACE and poor physical and mental health, chronic disease, lower educational achievement in childhood, and into adulthood. The neurobiological effect that ACEs and toxic stress cause towards a child's brain needs to be understood and, we need to consider opportunities that can be addressed by key stakeholders in a child's/young person's life.
When exposed to stressful situations, the fight or flight response floods the brain with corticotrophin-releasing hormones (CRH) and when repeatedly exposed to ACEs, more CRH is produced by the brain. This results in the child being constantly in fight or flight mode and not enduring the natural recovery mode. In this heightened neurological state a child/young person is unable to think rationally and further, is physiologically unable to learn. If we start to recognise these components, and in a learning environment the physiological impact together with the physical behaviours when the brain is under stress, then it is possible to change and enable effective implementation of an ACE approach within an educational setting.
What will an ACE informed school look like?
An ACE Informed school will:
- Respond positively to early intervention, ensuring that children and young people who have had a stressful and traumatic life lead a happier and healthier adult life; raise awareness, drive forward and implement trauma enforced strategies which will improve efforts towards prevention and recovery.
- Recognise the importance of the social and emotional aspects of how children and young people learn. These skills of social emotional competence will be taught in order to support the overall development of the child, effective learning and academic success.
- Be able to demonstrate positive relationships between adults (predominantly teachers) and children and young people, thereby providing the attachment, stability and support the children and young people need.
- Develop a culture that encourages children and young people to express their feelings and be optimistic about their ability to learn. This will have a profound impact on their academic achievement and behaviour for learning, leading to an increase in attendance and a reduction in exclusion rates.
- Place emphasis on teaching the children and young people to be resilient, have a growth mind-set, which will subsequently equip them with the tools needed to successfully address the symptoms brought on by ACEs and address longer term goals.
- Monitor and evaluate impact. The outcomes of which will support: a school’s own self-evaluation framework; further development and continue to build capacity within the school.
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