What are Adverse Childhood Experiences and How Do They Impact Students?
In Preventing ACES – Leveraging the Best Available Evidence, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, as the potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (0-17 years) such as experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect; witnessing violence in the home; and having a family member attempt or die by suicide. Additional components of a child’s environment can undermine their sense of safety, stability, and bonding; these include such things as experiencing discrimination or racism, growing up in a household with substance misuse, mental health problems, or instability due to parental separation or incarceration of a parent, sibling or other member of the household. Traumatic events in childhood can be emotionally painful or distressing and can have effects that persist for years. Factors such as the nature, frequency and seriousness of the traumatic event, prior history of trauma, and available family and community supports can shape a child’s response to trauma.
The "Pair of ACES" Tree, shown below, depicts the interrelationship of adverse childhood experiences and adverse childhood environments on health and wellbeing.
CDC has identified the following 6 strategies for preventing ACEs and reducing their deleterious effects. Schools have a role with each strategy.
Traumatized 5-year-olds are three times more likely to have problems with paying attention, and two times more likely to show aggression (NEA), and students with two or more ACEs are three times more likely to repeat a grade (SAMHSA). Trauma changes children’s brains, affects their academic advancement, and has broader impacts. The following resources are provided to support educators in improving the social and emotional, health and academic outcomes of students who have experienced trauma.
Information and Training
Severe stress affects students. Understanding this is the foundation for creating trauma sensitive classrooms.
Ways to Address and Reduce Trauma among Your Students
Schools can create inclusive, welcoming, healing experiences for all students, especially critical for those students who have experienced trauma:
Social Emotional Learning Resources
A full section on Social Emotional Health Resources and grade level lessons and instructional resources are available on Health Smart Virginia. Resources related to the COVID-19 Pandemic are also included.
Mental Health Resources
Mental health awareness, training, and support services are essential components of trauma-informed and trauma-responsive schools. Refer to Health Smart Virginia’s What is Mental Health? - Mental Health Wellness Training, Education, and Resources section for more information.
Additionally, with studies identifying the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on student mental health, and with schools struggling to provide mental health services, as a result of the resulting reduced in-person contact, numerous virtual mental health resources have been curated: